University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students win for second consecutive year
Therapalz, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student startup that incorporates a therapeutic object to help caretakers better care for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s, won the Saint Louis University Real Elevator Pitch Competition on Sunday, December 4 in Saint Louis, Missouri.
Therapalz, who took home the top prize, $2,500 and an all-expenses-paid trip to SXSW in Austin, Texas in March, was part of the not-for-profit track. Each team pitched their idea to the judges on 10 different elevator rides that lasted about 45 seconds each. Every elevator had 1-2 judges that each had six business cards to hand out. The top three teams with the most business cards were then invited outside to waiting Tesla Model S vehicles where they gave a final pitch to VIP judges in the backseat during a one-minute ride around the block to determine the ultimate winner.
“The first couple elevator rides, I was very nervous,” said Fiona Kalensky, Therapalz co-founder. “But as the event continued I became confident with each elevator ride and enjoyed the competition. Having a Therapal with me in each of the elevators helped me to center myself and have a starting point for conversation. It was nice to see the judges interact with the prototype, as well. The end of my last pitch, there were judges who were handing out their business cards in twos and threes.”
Kalensky was not only excited to compete in the competition, but to listen to valuable feedback, as well.
“We were able to meet and network with very accomplished business executives, investors, and other students who offered insights, suggestions, and validation for what we have been doing,” said Kalensky.
This wasn’t the team’s first time participating in a competition either. Therapalz was a finalist in the 2016 Cozad New Venture Competition and is now part of the iVenture Accelerator.
“Being part of iVenture has been an incredible experience,” said Kalensky. “It has allowed me to be part of a cohort of other student startups as well as discover the entrepreneurship scene at Illinois. Having minimal business background, I have had the wonderful opportunity to learn about startups, meet successful entrepreneurs, network and gain mentors.”
“I’m excited to see Therapalz continue to put their product in the hands of patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Ryan Singh, Lead Coordinator of the iVenture Accelerator. “As they create sustainable revenue models that help them do this at scale they will continue to grow personally and become even more effective communicators, product architects and entrepreneurs.”
Therapalz is the second team (in two years) to win the SLU Real Elevator Pitch Competition. Cast21, an Illinois student startup and member of the iVenture Accelerator, won the 2015 SLU competition.
“Prior to going to the competition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ashley Moy of Cast21,” said Kalensky. “She encouraged us to ride the elevators with our prototype and I think that was excellent advice. Since there was limited time, having a rough, tangible prototype instantly allowed for the judges to connect the concept of Therapalz to a potential product.”
“I love meeting other student entrepreneurs and I always get inspired by hearing the projects and companies that people are working on,” said Kalensky. “I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to be part of a very incredible and supportive community.”