Stow takes top prize of $25K at annual Monfort business pitch contest

By: Steve Porter Monday May 1, 2017 0 comments Tags: Greeley, David Thomas, Devin Eldridge, Stow, Lacuna Diagnostics, Class Composer, EZ Protein, To Market, UNC College of Business, Monfort Entrepreneurial Challenge


GREELEY – Stow, a Windsor-based  startup that matches people who need storage space with those who have some extra space to rent, was the winner of the top prize at the eighth annual Monfort College of Business Entrepreneurial Business Challenge on the University of Northern Colorado campus Friday.

“We simply connect people who have extra (storage) space with people who need extra space,” Devin Eldridge, Stow’s co-founder, told judges in the competition that featured its five finalists for $50,000 in prize money.monfort-insideuse2

“We have an amazing product that really fills a need for a lot of people.”

Eldridge noted that traditional storage unit facilities can charge hundreds of dollars a month, while people signed up with Stow can rent out their garage, basement or other space for whatever they decide is fair, providing them with passive income.

Eldridge said the Monfort top prize of $25,000 will be used to expand the business, which he projects to have more than 500 listings by the end of Summer.

(Click here to see an archived InnovatioNews story on Stow)

Placing second and receiving $13,000 in the competition was Fort Collins-based Lacuna Diagnostics, whose co-founder, Nick Norton, said aims to “raise the level of technology to better serve sick pets.”

Norton said when a pet is sick, it can take up to a week to receive the results of a blood test that could save its life if the test could be accomplished sooner.

Norton said Lacuna has the equipment to digitize the blood sample and send it online to a pathologist for a quick analysis.

“The less time pets wait for a diagnosis, the more chance they will live,” he said.

Taking third place and a cash prize of $7,000 was Boulder-based Class Composer, a startup that offers a system for elementary school teachers to fill out classes with a better balance of genders and learning levels.

Founder and teacher Mike Cronley said filling out well-rounded classes every year using paper forms is time-consuming and stressful.

And often classes end up with a less-than-perfect balance of kids, he noted.

Cronley said Class Composer offers a digital solution that teachers can quickly view and tweak to more easily balance their classes, keeping close friends together and classroom disruptors separated.

 “This is the pain,” he told judges. “This is the frustration that teachers feel. It’s very important to get it right.”

Pueblo-based EZ Protein took fourth place and $2,500 in the Challenge, offering an “EZ Protein machine” to better prepare protein drinks.

Founder Ryan Madic said serious athletes and protein shake lovers want a drink that’s easy to prepare and doesn’t have any lumps from a machine that's self-cleaning and can sit on a kitchen shelf like a coffee machine.monfort-inside2

Coming in fifth place and also receiving $2,500 was To Market, a Denver-based startup that aims to connect the state’s best farmers with its finest chefs.

David Moosman, company founder, said the goal of To Market is simple: “Out mission is to bring the best foods to the best chefs.

“We’ve created the tools to help farmers to get their foods to local markets. What we can offer to chefs is the ability to get the best local products.”

To Market also offers diners a fuller experience through an app that can show them exactly where the food they order came from, Moosman said.

David Thomas, UNC assistant professor of management and chief organizer of the Monfort Challenge, said he was pleased with the variety of business models offered by this year's five finalist companies.

“What’s nice is we keep getting diverse companies taking part, and that’s been part of the goal,” he said.

Thomas is retiring from UNC and will no longer be spearheading the Challenge, but said he’s confident the Monfort family will continue to fund the competition in the future.

“I feel really good,” he said after Friday’s event. “We started this eight years ago and we’ll pass the torch on to someone else.

“It’s really spawned a lot of new entrepreneurs.”

This year's Challenge was sponsored by UNC BizHub Collaborative, Colorado Lending Source and BizWest. Judges included George Lobisser, partner for Maliky Capital; Tyler Richardson, co-owner of Richmark Holdings; and Ross Shell, founder of Red Idea Partners.

Steve Porter

About the Author: Steve Porter

Steve Porter, editor of InnovatioNews, has more than 20 years of newspaper experience in reporting, editing and managing news organizations. Steve brings a deep knowledge of the Colorado business landscape and award-winning writing and editing skills to the project.