Big Ideas Get Bigger

PROVO, Utah – Nov 05, 2019 – From biodegradable lip balm to upgraded back pillows, creative and innovative business ideas were pitched at the annual Big Idea Pitch competition sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU Marriott.

The Rollins Center provides resources to students from all areas of study, not just business, such as mentoring, courses, and competitions to help students develop their startups. As one of the many resources Rollins Center offers, the Big Idea Pitch is the first part of the Miller Competition Series held each year. The competition allows students to submit their entrepreneurial ideas and compete to win funding and mentorship opportunities.

Second-year MBA student Dakota Burrow from Las Cruces, New Mexico, and computer science senior Bo Bleyl from Richmond, Virginia, took home first place and $1,000 for their Traffic Genius idea, a system of connected smart traffic lights that uses advanced sensors and machine learning to optimize traffic flow.

“Even though there is not a lot of traffic in Provo, Bo and I noticed that we’d constantly get stuck at lights with weird signal patterns,” says Burrow. “We figured there had to be a better solution. Winning feels great, and we are excited to move forward with this idea.”

The four runner-ups include the PhyR Machine, a machine that produces a healthier, cheaper insulin at home; Mobile Vibroacoustic Therapy Device, a portable audio therapy tool; UR-Analysis, a device that detects infections and diseases; and Distracted Driving Eye Tech, a sensor that tracks distracted driving.

To participate in the competition, a student simply needs an idea. For the 2019 competition, more than five hundred teams submitted short videos explaining their big ideas. Those ideas were sent to a group of hundreds of alumni and startup professionals from the BYU entrepreneurship network. Each were given a list of video submissions to score, and each idea was reviewed multiple times. At the Big Idea Pitch finale on 3 October 2019, the top-thirty teams had ninety-nine seconds to pitch their idea again—this time live in front of a group of more than fifty Rollins Center Founders, successful entrepreneurs who support entrepreneurship on campus as part of the semi-annual Founders’ Conference.

Judges then had a thirty-second window to cast their votes for the winning teams. Judges based their votes on three main criteria: whether students a) presented a problem to be solved, b) proposed a creative solution, and c) identified a gap in the market.

To encourage the submissions of students from all across campus, for the first time, $200 prizes were awarded to the best submission from the BYU Marriott’s eight partner colleges on campus.

In all, $10,000 in cash prizes were awarded to winners. Teams will use the prize money to continue their validation needs. Validation improves likelihood of success by testing an idea with target markets and gathering relevant feedback on whether to continue before spending significant time or resources.

“This year’s Big Idea Pitch is a testament to the interest and excitement on campus for entrepreneurship and innovation,” says Jeff Brown, associate director of operations for the Rollins Center. “We saw more interdisciplinary participation than ever before. We are excited to support these teams and help them move their ideas forward as the year goes on.”

To learn more about the Big Idea Pitch and other competitions from the Miller Competition Series, visit miller.byu.edu.

Bo Bleyl and Dakota Burrow on stage after winning first place at the Big Idea Competition.
Bo Bleyl and Dakota Burrow on stage after winning first place at the Big Idea Competition. Photo courtesy of BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Kate Monroe