UA Little Rock student entrepreneurs win $40,000 at e-Fest

a team of business students (Zach Cochran, bottom left, Noah Asher, center, and Abigail Resendiz, bottom right) from UA Little Rock have won second place at the international Ivey Business Plan Competition. The students collaborated with Arkansas Cardiology Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Dwight Christman, back left, Baptist Health Cardiovascular Nurse Anna Helm, center left, and Martial Tregeaud, back right, to commercialize a medical device invented by Chrisman to help cardiologists perform heart surgery with greater safety and efficiency. Photo by Ben Krain.

After winning the undergraduate and innovation divisions at the Arkansas Governor’s Cup last week, a dream team of student entrepreneurs from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has continued their winning streak by taking home $40,000 at e-Fest 2019. 

Team Vascugenix earned third place and $20,000 April 11-13 at e-Fest 2019, a venture pitch competition that is part of the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The students also placed first in the innovation division, earning them an additional $20,000.

The main goal of this elite entrepreneurship event, open to undergraduate students in North America and with $250,000 in cash prizes available, includes recognizing compelling student ideas for products, services, and ventures but also aims to encourage student learning and networking around using entrepreneurial thinking and methods to create, validate, and communicate about solutions to problems.

Vascugenix team members include UA Little Rock students Noah Asher, senior finance and economics major and Donaghey Scholar; Abigail Resendiz, senior international business and management major and Donaghey Scholar; and Zach Cochran, senior economics major. Martial Trigeaud, a UA Little Rock adjunct professor and business consultant at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, serves as the team’s mentor.

The group collaborated with Arkansas Cardiology Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Dwight Chrisman, a 1993 graduate of UA Little Rock, and Baptist Health Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit Nurse Anna Helm to commercialize a medical device invented by Chrisman. The device, the Speed-Torque™, is a medical torque device used by surgeons in minimally invasive heart surgery.

A cardiovascular surgeon uses a torque to maneuver a surgical guidewire and catheter through a patient’s femoral artery to get to the heart. Currently, surgeons must use both hands to perform the procedure. However, Chrisman’s design is for a device that clicks into place and can be operated with only one hand, making surgery faster and safer.

So far, Vascugenix has won more than $75,000 in prize money from business plan and entrepreneurial competitions. In January, Vascugenix won second place and $3,000 at the Ivey Business Plan Competition at Western University in Ontario, Canada.

Team Vascugenix earned third place and $20,000 April 11-13 at e-Fest 2019, a venture pitch competition that is part of the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Team Vascugenix earned third place and $20,000 at e-Fest 2019, a venture pitch competition that is part of the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge.

During the first weekend in April, the students won $2,000 after being named a semifinalist at the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston. Vascugenix was one of 42 teams from more than 400 applications accepted into the competition, dubbed the world’s richest and largest student startup competition. UA Little Rock was the only university from Arkansas to make it into the competition, while Vascugenix is only the second team in UA Little Rock’s history to be accepted.

At the Arkansas Governor’s Cup, the students won first place in the Winrock Automotive Undergraduate Division and a $25,000 prize as well as $5,000 and first place in the undergraduate Innovate Arkansas Innovation Division for a total of $30,000.

Vascugenix is now in talks with investors to raise $1.4 million in investment capital to launch the Speed-Torque™, which they plan to manufacture and sell out of Little Rock.

“We’ll look for the investors who fit the best with our company culture and vision for the future,” said Asher. “We want investors with the right networks of contacts who can help us succeed.”

In the upper right photo, a team of business students (Zach Cochran, bottom left, Noah Asher, center, and Abigail Resendiz, bottom right) from UA Little Rock have won third place at e-Fest 2019. The students collaborated with Arkansas Cardiology Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Dwight Christman, back left, Baptist Health Cardiovascular Nurse Anna Helm, center left, and Martial Tregeaud, back right, to commercialize a medical device invented by Chrisman to help cardiologists perform heart surgery with greater safety and efficiency. Photo by Ben Krain.

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