What started as an entertaining side project has turned into a multi-million dollar road show.
It all started last year, when we had the idea of taking our recent publications on computationally designing chemicals to the startup arena. Northwestern hosts a university startup pitch competition called NUVention. We entered into the competition going after a whopping grand prize of $400.
We’ve been experimenting heavily with Blender so decided to make a snappy 5-minute pitch “deck” based entirely in Blender. Key presses were manually programmed to start and stop animations, leading to something that uniquely felt like a mixture of a movie and a slideshow.
It worked. We presented to NUVention and won for not only our technology but also our style. We also won something that would end up being much more valuable than the prize money - an entry into the student category of the Clean Energy Trust pitch competition.
We presented the same slides and ended up winning a $100,000 prize. Similar to NUVention, we learned that the biggest prize was not the cash but the network. The Clean Energy Trust introduced us to even larger competitions.
Most importantly, we presented at the Rice Business Plan Competition. We won… and were the first Northwestern startup to ever do so.💬Edit - Our win started a trend of Northwestern companies entering and winning RBPC for multiple years after us!
This netted us enough funding to drop out of my PhD program and start the company, on top of great publicity and a glowing article in Fortune Magazine.
The culmination of this unexpected joyride was our multiple invites to ring the Nasdaq bell. Although purely symbolic, it was an incredible experience when reflecting upon our humble beginnings as chemical engineering graduate students dabbling in computer graphics.
I’ve learned so much through our months-long journey and hope to fill my blog with them as I get time to process everything.