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MacFarlane Wins Innovation Challenge Minute Pitch Contest

Connor MacFarlane (center) with contest judges and novelty checks for 250 and 1,000 dollars

Connor MacFarlane (center)

First-year student Connor MacFarlane of the Chemical Engineering Department won the Innovation Challenge Minute Pitch competition on October 16, thus earning a first-place prize of $1,000 in addition to an audience choice award of $250. MacFarlane’s prize-winning venture is a trailblazing insulin-delivery system for all insulin-dependent diabetics. The Minute Pitch was the initial stage of the four-part Innovation Challenge, which resumes on November 20 with the Seed Pitch.

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MacFarlane’s “Improved Insulin Delivery” is an upgraded system for insulin-dependent diabetics that reduces pain, plastic waste, and the number of diabetes-related supplies needed to be carried in person by a diabetic. The system also decreases the time spent managing the disease, according to MacFarlane, thus “allowing for a life with increased happiness and freedom.”

MacFarlane performed his winning Minute Pitch for an audience of nearly 200 students, faculty, staff members, and supporters. During the Minute Pitch process, representatives of 26 ventures each made pitches for their startup ideas. As determined by a panel of industry expert judges, $2,500 in prize money was awarded to the first-, second-, and third-place teams and the audience choice selection.

Hosted by the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, the Innovation Challenge is a cross-campus entrepreneurship competition that launches promising ventures to the next levels of startup. During the Minute Pitch competition, each team gets 60 seconds to pitch its idea to a panel of judges. Each team then receives immediate feedback from a mentor, who suggests how to improve the presentation and fine-tune the business idea with constructive feedback and encouragement.

The top teams get to go back in front of the judges, with each round affording the competitors more time and feedback. The cash prizes enable the winning teams to pursue expert advice, create working prototypes, or do research.

The competition continues on November 20 with the UMass Innovation Challenge Seed Pitch (a closed-door event), more workshops, and the two-round final competition in the spring of 2019.

The judges for the Minute Pitch were Jean Coyle (Carl Fisher Company, CEO), Juline Mills (Westfield State, dean), Claudia Pazmany (Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, executive director), Jim Pearson (Innovation Accelerator, CEO), Lenny Underwood (Upscale Socks, founder), Michelle Wirth (Mercedes-Benz Springfield, co-owner and CMO)

The event sponsors included EY, The Heiser Family, Norman “Bud” Robertson, Kumar Ganapathy, Jeff Glassman, Darn It!, John & Sally Burke, Joe Suyemoto, and Jerry O'Connor. (November 2019)