Innovation Coast Award Winners Thank FSBDC at UWF for Assistance in Business Plan Competition

November 30, 2014 | Mandy Fernandez |

image of IRIS members at Innovation Coast Awards, November 2014
IRIS, 1st place winners

Innovation Coast is a group of tech-focused companies and organizations working together to create a more enhanced culture of technology businesses in Northwest Florida. On November 6 and 7, 2014, this group held its inaugural Innovation Coast Awards at the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel. At the event, ten selected companies pitched their business plan ideas for a chance to win cash prizes.

The Florida SBDC at UWF partnered with Innovation Coast organizers to coach the entrepreneurs with their pitches, business plans, and other related research needs prior to the competition. Growth Business Consultants from Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach reached out to the finalists and semi-finalists, offering our no-cost services to each business owner. The top two winners of the competition were clients of the Florida SBDC at UWF prior to the start of the competition. Each client thanked us for the assistance provided during the experience: IRIS (Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems) placed first and received a cash prize of $100,000; Accountingfly placed second and received a cash prize of $50,000; Robotics Unlimited placed third and won a business services package in the amount of $5,000.

IRIS entered the Innovation Coast Awards to spread awareness about their innovative health screening products. Their company provides comprehensive eye screenings that help reduce and prevent blindness and other eye diseases. With their winnings, they plan to hire additional sales people. CEO Jason Crawford says, "Our FSBDC Consultants were great resources. Carl Quesinberry and Dorian Zwierewicz helped us prepare our presentation for the Innovation Coast Awards." He adds, "The FSBDC challenged our thinking and helped us formulate a full business plan through advice and their software. Their challenging questions caused us to think outside our normal realm and their experienced opinions were very beneficial."

Accountingfly decided to enter the Innovation Coast Awards to put themselves in front of statewide investors and business leaders and learn how their plan compared to other start-ups in the area. This firm connects employers looking for accounting employees such as full-time experienced staff, student interns, CPA's and other accounting related jobs. Through this group, accountants can build a profile, search for jobs and build their careers. Accountingfly plans to use their award winnings to hire additional technical and marketing staff to help them grow the business. CEO Jeff Phillips comments, "The team from FSBDC at UWF were very helpful. They specifically assisted me with financial projections and explaining our model."

Robotics Unlimited entered the Innovation Coast Awards to gain exposure and validate their company's business plan. This company creates robotics that are specially designed to move vertically, overcome obstacles and can run up to 20 mph. They have "legs" (turrets) on both sides that help them move forward on the ground and can be controlled. Robotics Unlimited intends to put their cash prize toward the first round of funding and hiring more people for product development. CEO Dr. Sebastien Cotton remarked on his experience in working with the FSBDC at UWF while preparing for the competition. He says, "As a foreigner, my biggest challenge was to deliver a clear and understandable message. I performed several pitches with FSBDC at UWF staff to improve my delivery. They were very helpful and even brought in a UWF Professor who specializes in public speaking? to assist me. This helped me improve my diction tremendously."

All three top winners say that they will continue their business consulting relationship with the FSBDC at UWF. IRIS notes, "The FSBDC challenged us to think strategically and document our plans; they can help others too." Robotics Unlimited reveals, "I will definitely continue working with the FSBDC at UWF, mainly to review my business plan further and to guide me through other unknown areas."

Congratulations to the winners and to all the participants in this competition. The FSBDC at UWF enjoyed being a part of this pilot awards program and we look forward to assisting these clients more in future.