Native takes $20K top prize in CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge collegiate competition

By: steveporter Thursday May 28, 2015 Tags: Fort Collins, CSU, CSU Blue Ocean Enter, Native, Change Composites, Nathan Saam, Devon Tivona, CU, Christine Chin


FORT COLLINS -- Native, a University of Colorado-based startup company that aims to provide a personal travel assistant from a mobile app for only $25 a month, was the top prize winner at the second annual CSU Blue Ocean Enterprises Collegiate Challenge held Wednesday on the Colorado State University campus.Blue_Ocean_inside_photoFIXED

Native took home the top prize of $20,000 in the competition, narrowly beating out second place winner Change Composites, a CSU-based startup that offers a bicycle helmet that can withstand more force than typical bike helmets.

Change Composites received a $5,000 cash prize for its business pitch. Native and Change Composites went head-to-head in the final competition after a day-long business pitch battle of 13 collegiate-based teams before panels of successful startup founders and investors.

The Collegiate pitch competition is a joint partnership between CSU and Fort Collins-based Blue Ocean Enterprises and is held in conjunction with Fort Collins Startup Week, May 26-31.

As winner of the Collegiate Competition, Native will have the opportunity to pitch its business model during the two-day CSU Blue Ocean Enterprise Competition set for May 29-30, also on the CSU campus in the Lory Student Center.

That competition features a $250,000 grand prize and includes entrepreneurs from established companies across Colorado and the nation.

Devon Tivona, Native CEO, said the company aims to “bring humanity back into travel” by providing human and travel assistants and machine-learning technology to help travelers book flights, hotels and receive other travel services for an affordable price.

“The user experience in travel is broken,” Tivona said, noting the lack of a personal touch in today’s travel industry that has largely done away with professional travel agents.   

“We present all the best options in a beautiful and mobile way. We do all the research and you can book right from the app.”

Tivona said Native has had a “look-to-book” rate of 30 to 40 percent since it began offering the service, with a 1 percent look-to-book rate considered to be very good.

Change Composites’ CEO Nathan Saam said his company’s helmets have a three-layered composite structure that protects both the skull and the brain. He said the stronger helmets could help prevent many of the 100,000 hospitalizations of head-injured bicyclists every year in the U.S.Blue_Ocean_logoUSE_1

“It’s 100,000 lives we can change the outcome of,” he told judges.

Saam said the company is initially targeting the $150M bike helmet industry but he is hoping to have the National Football League use his technology in new football helmet designs aimed at reducing serious head injuries.

Other collegiate companies pitching in Wednesday’s competition were:

  • Axios Impact Investments, CSU
  • BOOM Algae, CU
  • Chem with Ray, CSU
  • Gamecentrics, CSU
  • NuBru Coffee, CU (which made it to the semi-finals)
  • QuadshoX, CSU
  • Rocky Mountain Sriracha, Colorado Mesa University
  • The Space Research Company, CU (which also made it to the semi-finals)
  • Viagozo, CSU
  • Wise Art Foods, CSU
  • YOUglycemia, CSU, CU, Anschutz Medical campus 

“We congratulate Native and Change Composites and are very proud of all of the Collegiate competitors, who spent months refining their pitches and preparing to compete,” said Christine Chin, co-director of the Challenge and interim director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship in the CSU College of Business.

“We are grateful to our panels of honored judges and sponsorship partners for working with us to create an event that celebrates collegiate entrepreneurs across Colorado.” 


About the Author: steveporter

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.