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Lauchpad 2023: UCSC's 6th Annual Business Pitch Awards Competition

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We had a very successful Santa Cruz Launchpad 2023, which entailed UCSC's 6th Annual UCSC Business Pitch Awards and Santa Cruz Works Job Fair - over 25 companies, 100s of jobs, at the Cocoanut Grove. The pitch competition was a great event with 21 undergraduate student teams from UCSC competing for $50,000 in cash prizes. 

We had five judges:

  • Tze Yee (G.E.) built out the content operations team and helped launch the Google Play Music

  • Tina Bullington UCSC's Executive Fellow of the Everett Program.

  • Local LeBaron Meyers is a business development executive, leadership and communication coach,

  • Bindu Gakhar is the Head of Product & Design at Silicon Valley Unicorn Paystand, a blockchain-based B2B payments company

  • David Schwartz is a retired Department Chair Geology, Oceanography & Environmental Science at Cabrillo College

The criteria that the judges used: 

  • Overall presentation - communication, visuals, organization, flow, content, time management, and q&a

  • Innovation - originality, unique advantage, competition

  • Impact Potential - ability to create positive change, solve problems, meet unmet needs, benefit society

  • Business model - understanding of market, cost structure, scalability

  • Feasibility - market research, technological feasibility, financial viability, resources and skills, target market and competition, unique value proposition

  • Team -  passion, enthusiasm, skills, adaptability, roles, well rounded

  • X-Factor 

All participating teams were given access to “Perks Package” with access to over a million dollars worth of credits and services coordinated by Santa Cruz Works. Teams gained access to free AWS credits and access to local legal and business consultants.


Following the pitch contest, the event also featured a hiring fair with more than two dozen local employers looking to hire graduating Slugs.

This event was produced and facilitated by staff at Santa Cruz Works, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development, the UCSC Career Success, and the Campus’ Innovation and Business Engagement Hub with additional sponsorship from Cabrillo College. Big thanks to Engineering for gifts to our esteemed  Mentors and Judges. The prize money was sponsored by the NSF I-Corp.

Here's a list of all the participants:

      Team Name                        Tagline                                                                                     

  • Simplified Marketing         Generating consistent, scalable revenue growth for Residential Solar Businesses

  • Closed Loop                       The 'Redhat' for Industrial Robots on Earth and Space, Operating System for                                                             Autonmous  Systems  -  1st Prize: $10,000

  • Plexigraph                           First privacy-first web marketplace  -  Runner Up: $2,000

  • BioGenesis                          Trials 3-sided network of patients (without access to clinical research), clinical sites,                                                   and emerging biopharma trial sponsors  -  Tech Prize: $6,000

  • Wako Ai                               Reducing the barrier of human-computer interaction through conversational AI                                                         speech technologies  -   Runner Up: $2,000

  • ABSA                                   Automatic Book Scanner Attachment Cheap, fast, and accessible book scanning

  • DoTract                                Making daily agreements and relationships easier to manage for individuals and                                                       professionals alike

  • Helperly                               Mobile application that brings people together to end homelessness -                                                                       Runner up: $2,000

  • Collegiate                            Makes the college application easier through AI personal branding and editing                                                        tools  -  Runner up: $2,000

  • PatchedUP                          We hire artists to repair damaged clothes in stylistic ways, thereby limiting clothing                                                   waste and encouraging creativity  -  Local impact: $1,000

  • Electric Slugs                       Converting bicycles and light motorcycles into electric, to help transportation at                                                        UCSC  -  Local impact: $1,000

  • Cruz Cooker                        The next evolution in rice cooking appliances.

  • Rug Slug                              Robot that cleans stains in rugs

  • Astrograph                           Enabling astrophotography and astronomy by tracking and avoiding satellites.

  • Guardian Angel                   Product that protects infants from SIDS and heat stroke if they are left unattended                                                    in a car -  Social Impact Prize: $6,000  &  Popular Vote Prize: $4,000

  • Sparkle                                 Empowering everyone to participate in the green transition. Save money and save                                                    the planet.

  • Vigama                                 AI companion for personalized guidance, emotional support, and life coaching

  • FarmItUp!                             Combines innovative vertical farm technology with stunning, customizable designs                                                   that elevate any space   -   Runner up: $2,000  &  Climate Action Award: $10,000                                                       provided by the Innovation & Business Engagement Hub through the UC Santa                                                       Cruz Climate Action Solutions Catalyst Program.

  • SOL aka "Stick on Light'     Stickable lights to improve safety for bikers

  • Farm Fresh                           Giving farm-to-table a new meaning

Special thanks to our sponsors:

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