Motorcycle safety device earns top spot at annual pitch competition

contact: Cindy Wagner
| WMU News
Photo of winners of the 2016 K.C. O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition.

Winners of the 2016 K.C. O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Jacket360, an invention from a Western Michigan University electrical engineering student designed to improve motorcycle safety, clinched the top spot and $1,700 at the fourth annual K.C. O'Shaughnessy Business Pitch Competition and Showcase held March 24.

Photo of Cody Middleton.

Middleton

The winner, Cody Middleton, a senior from Grand Blanc, says his winnings will help fund his next step —building a prototype. "I have made so many connections from the pitch competition that will be integral in getting Jacket 360 on the market," says Middleton, who plans to attend the Disrupt New York technology conference in May. "I have also been in contact with one of the pitch judges who has assisted me with defining my market and creating a business model."

Each year, students from across WMU's campus apply to participate in the competition, which awards cash prizes and provides an important networking opportunity for the student entrepreneurs. Following an application process that included video pitches, 24 companies were selected to pitch their business ideas during a semi-final round. Each pitch received feedback during this round; six finalists were selected to present during the final round, which was judged by business community members, including local business owners. The final event was held in WMU's Fetzer Center.

"To prepare, I practiced my pitch with my business partner and studied previous winners' pitching strategies," says Middleton. "It was so intense waiting to hear if my name would be called to pitch in the final round."

Now in its fourth year, the competition is sponsored by Great Lakes Architectural Products Group, The Vernon Group, Robert and Risé Landeros, Slyde and Campus Starter.

Winners

First place

  • $1,700 award: Jacket360, pitched by Middleton.

Jacket 360 is a modern spin on the motorcycle jacket designed to improve safety. Middleton, who is working on patenting his product, says the jacket also has applications for other recreational activities and markets.

Second place

  • $1,200 award: EZ Timeout, pitched by Emmanuel Machena, a finance major from Harare, Zimbabwe. Other business partners include Simbarashe Chirara, a finance major from Harare, Zimbabwe; and Binyam Minassie, an engineering design technology major from Kalamazoo.

EZ Timeout is a high-quality, affordable room divider that is easily attachable and detachable and also flexible and simple to install. It is flame-resistant, waterproof and eco-friendly.

Third place

  • $800 award: Trash Can Suction Solutions, pitched by Lukas Swoboda, an industrial and entrepreneurial engineering major from Kalamazoo. Other business partners, all industrial and entrepreneurial engineering majors, include Amber Johnson from Sturgis, David Haruza from Kalamazoo and Nick Roe of Jackson.

Trash Can Suction Solutions is a one-way valve used to reduce the suction that is created in the bottom of trash bins. When a trash bag gets too full, it presses up against the sides, blocking air flow and creating a vacuum.

People's choice

  • $300 award: Jones Media, Eric Jones, a management major from Vicksburg.

Jones Media is a video production company that exists to create creative and compelling videos that tell the stories of small businesses in southwest Michigan.

For more information about the competition, visit wmich.edu/pitch.

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