Eight early-stage companies have been selected as semi-finalists in the 2017 Rochester Venture Challenge from among the 35 companies that entered the competition in January. The eight semi-finalists are competing for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

From this group, five finalists will be selected by a selection panel and announced on March 31st; finalist companies will present their business pitches to a panel of judges on the morning of April 27th in an event open to the public at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rochester.

The eight semi-finalist companies and their leaders are:

  • BeeFluent, Zack Bessler
    • BeeFluent is the big data startup with a mission to automate authentic language translation for business applications worldwide and improve machine translation with crowdsourced data from an immersive foreign language chat tool that helps students practice on social media
  • Empire Medicinals, Qiaosong George Zheng
    • Empire Medicinals (EMMED) develops, cultivates, and manufactures high quality, mushroom-based nutraceuticals for Asian shoppers.
  • House At Work, Peter Schick
    • House At Work is an online platform where homeowners can find high quality, thoroughly vetted and screened contractors to work on their home projects with minimal effort.
  • HZ Innovations, Greyson Watkins
    • Hz Innovations has created and is taking to market the innovative Wavio line of products. Wavio is the next big step in addressing home accessible technology (HAT) for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing. The first product in the Wavio line features a proprietary intelligent sound recognition technology in a compact and modern device that plugs in standard household outlets. Coupled with a smartphone notification system, Wavio makes hearing loss homeowners aware of critical sounds.
  • Impact Earth, Robert Putney & Elizabeth Carey
    • One-stop shop Zero Waste solutions consultants for your events, schools, manufacturing facilities, restaurant and home. Impact Earth helps commercial, institutional, and not-for- profits reduce the trash they send to landfills.
  • MicroEra Power, Ellie Rusling
    • MicroEra Power is commercializing patented on-site power systems for clean, responsive, high-efficiency power, providing commercial businesses up to 50% savings on monthly energy costs with high power density & small footprint.
  • Primary Book Club, Erin Witmer
    • Primary Book Club is a subscription book service for parents and caregivers of children aged 0-5.
  • ThermApparel, Kurtis Kracke
    • ThermApparel is a design and manufacturing company that provides personal cooling apparel to targeted healthcare markets that live with heat sensitivity.

“As usual, the selection committee had a very difficult time picking the eight semi-finalists from the many great companies that applied this year,” said Jim Senall, president of High Tech Rochester.  “It’s clear that tech entrepreneurship continues to be on the rise here in our region—as evidenced by this strong field of contestants, as well as the many other new entrepreneurial activities taking place in the region.”

The winners of the Challenge will be announced on April 27th at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon at the Rochester Hyatt Regency Hotel.  Each of the five finalists will receive some combination of cash or services prizes, which will help accelerate their growth. The first place prize includes $25,000 cash.  Last year’s Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon attracted over 300 business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors.

2017 Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon – Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Rochester Venture Challenge is a collaborative effort among community organizations High Tech Rochester, Digital Rochester, The Entrepreneurs Network, Excell Partners, Nazareth College School of Management, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester.

For media inquiries, contact Jackie Amigone.