BOZEMAN — Two entrepreneurial ventures that are participating in the 406 Labs business accelerator program at Montana State University’s Blackstone LaunchPad have won prizes recently in national and state-wide competitions.
MSU alumnus Michael Fox and his mobile app company, DugalHealth, won the grand prize in the Mobileys competition, which was held this fall in Washington, D.C. Fox won for DugalDiabetes, a mobile app that helps individuals with Type 1 diabetes manage insulin dosing.
In addition, MSU students Sam Kern and Aidan Weltner won second place in a statewide competition in Utah, The Bright Skies Innovation Contest, for their mobile app, ShareLift, which facilitates ridesharing to ski resorts.
Fox, Kern, Weltner and their products are deserving of the recognition, according to Les Craig, director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU.
“There are a few common traits that I have observed amongst the successful start-up founders who have worked with the MSU Blackstone LaunchPad,” Craig said. “First, they have unwavering persistence in charging through any obstacles they encounter. Second, they are not afraid to learn and adapt their thinking. Both of these recent successes can be directly attributed to the determination, humility and empathy these teams embrace every day."
Fox is CEO of DugalHealth. He said the mobile app DugalDiabetes utilizes machine learning and individualized real-time feedback to make insulin dosing for meals easier, faster and more accurate, significantly improving blood glucose control and quality of life.
Fox said he got the idea for DugalDiabetes during his training to become a registered dietitian with the Montana Dietetic Internship program at MSU. He recognized that the currently accepted insulin dosing approach was lagging behind the research, and rather than educate around an antiquated system, he said he decided to innovate. In addition to working with the MSU Blackstone LaunchPad and its 406 Labs program, Fox has collaborated on the app with Graham Austin, a faculty member in the MSU Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship; Mary Miles, faculty in the MSU Department of Health and Human Development; and Alison Harmon, interim dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Development.
The Mobileys, sponsored by Mobile Future, is an annual national competition that challenges early-stage mobile entrepreneurs across the U.S. to create game-changing apps, products and services that use mobile to make the world a better place, according to the Mobileys website. The competition entries were evaluated by an experienced judging panel of individuals from the worlds of tech, mobile, venture capital, journalism, healthcare and entertainment. For winning the competition’s grand prize, DugalDiabetes received $10,000.
“DugalDiabetes exemplifies all that is possible when mobile technology, creativity and hard work are put to the test,” said Diane Smith, incoming Mobile Future chair. “This award-winning app is a true testament to the bold ingenuity of bright innovators across the country who are tapping into the endless possibilities wireless technology offers.”
Kern, an MSU senior majoring in computer science and minoring in Hispanic studies, and Weltner, a junior majoring in liberal studies and photography, won $11,250 for taking second place in the Bright Skies Innovation Contest. The contest invited applicants who have developed innovations that can immediately improve Utah’s air quality to apply for a total of $45,000 in prize money. Kern and Weltner competed against nearly 40 applicants; of those, eight finalists were selected to pitch their products in an event held this fall in downtown Salt Lake City.
ShareLift is a ridesharing app that facilitates carpooling for skiers and snowboarders traveling to and from ski resorts, with a goal of reducing vehicle emissions. Automatic payment, ranking, pickup locations and other features are all built in to the app. ShareLift launched at Bridger Bowl, Big Sky, and in Park City, Utah, this ski season.
Kern said the idea for ShareLift came from Weltner, who, as a freshman at MSU, had a ski pass to a local resort, but no car.
“It made it hard to get up to the mountain, even though there were tons of people driving up with extra seats,” Kern noted. More information about ShareLift is available at shareliftapp.com.
“Winning this competition was a big win for us, not just for the prize money but also for the validation it brings to the idea and our team's ability to execute,” Kern said. “We've been slowly working on ShareLift for over a year without any outside funding, so this award will go a long way in speeding up development and helping us spread the word about ShareLift.”
406 Labs is a program of the Blackstone LaunchPad at MSU that provides focused resources designed to help high-growth potential LaunchPad ventures establish product-market fit. Funded in part by a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the program assists companies with various items related to launching a business, including prototype creation, go-to-market strategy, business development pipeline creation, sales training, fundraising strategy and hiring. A wide network of Montana-based mentors assists each company that is selected to participate in 406 Labs. 406 Labs is on Twitter at @406Labs.
Contact: Les Craig, MSU Blackstone LaunchPad, (406) 994-4383 or firstname.lastname@example.org