A start-up company that is enabling video game players anywhere in the world to talk to each other during their games was the big winner in the first annual “$100k Innovation Challenge @Case.”
Game Communications LLC, a company founded and run by a current and a former Case undergraduate student, won $75,000. Game Communications is developing voice communications software and voice communication services to the professional eSports and amateur computer game player markets.
The remaining $25,000 went to Avanti Metal Company, founded and operated by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Avanti has developed a method for selling titanium products at a fraction of their current price while creating one percent of the hazardous waste and pollution generated by current methods of production.
Winners were announced Thursday, April 20, at Case’s Weatherhead School of Management. The Weatherhead School co-sponsored the competition with The Institute for Management and Engineering (TiME), a joint venture of the Case School of Engineering and the Weatherhead School.
Game Communications was started by Spencer Fry, a senior at Yale, and David Grampa, a junior at Case. “We’re very, very happy to receive this funding, and grateful to the organizers of the competition,” said Fry. He added that the prize money would be reinvested in the business, mostly to hire additional software engineers.
Fry spent his freshman year at Case, and then transferred to Yale. He and Grampa came up with the idea for the company in the summer of 2004, when they met in a computer science class.
The $100K innovation challenge is organized by the Weatherhead School’s Entrepreneurship Club. It is one of the few business plan competitions in the country organized and run entirely by students.
“We were extremely impressed with the quality of the competition entries we received,” said Brady Mullin, president of the Entrepreneurship Club and a second-year MBA student. “It is obvious that there are a great many creative ideas out there for new businesses. Hopefully, competitions such as ours will provide the financing they need to turn those plans into reality.”
The portion of the prize money contributed by TiME, $75,000, was sponsored by the Joseph P. and Nancy Keithley Foundation and the National Science Foundation and was earmarked for a student- or company-generated plan from Northeast Ohio. The remaining $25,000, from the Weatherhead School, was designated for a student plan from anywhere in the country.
Mullin said the competition initially received 120 entries from all over the country. Those were winnowed to 20 semifinalists and then to seven finalists.