Campus News

SPARK Event a Big Success for UK Startups and Other Entrepreneurs

Enepret award - L to R, Eric Hartman (VACE), Chase Kempinski (Pharmacy), Gina Greathouse (Commerce Lexington), Brian Chellgren (Bingham, Greenbaum, Doll)
UK researcher award

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 5, 2017) As a part of the ongoing SPARK networking series, the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship (VACE) & Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network along with Commerce Lexington, its partner in the Bluegrass Business Development Partnership (BBDP), recently hosted the third annual Bluegrass Showcase of Emerging Entrepreneurs and University Researchers at Copper Roux in Lexington. 

This event showcased 13 local startup companies all of whom are VACE clients. Three of these companies, Hummingbird Nano, Enepret and Signal Solutions are University of Kentucky (UK) based companies with intellectual property.

This event also featured six emerging UK researchers from the colleges of Arts and Sciences, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Medicine, who individually received pitch coaching by VACE. These researches included:

  • Kaylynne Glover – College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Kai Zhang – College of Medicine;
  • Tara Shrout – College of Medicine;
  • Michael Orr – College of Medicine;
  • Ahmad Al-Attar – College of Dentistry; and
  • Dave Jensen – College of Dentistry.

Both the companies and the researchers were required to give two-minute pitches about their products or research to an independent panel of judges. Companies were judged on strength of their idea/product, the presentation and tabletop display. Using their research posters as a backdrop, UK researchers were judged on their knowledge of customer/market, the ability to describe the problem which they were attempting to solve, and the clarity of their pitch.

A prize of $500 for the winner of each track was provided by the Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network and the Von Allmen Center. 

The top spot in the company track went to Enepret, founded by UK College of Pharmacy faculty member Joe Chappell and pitched by postdoctoral student Chase Kempinski. Kempinski completed the Venture Studio Bootcamp in the fall of 2016 and is currently in the first pilot program of UKAccel — a new initiative through UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) partnered with the Von Allmen Center.

The winner of the UK researcher track was Ahmad Al-Attar from the College of Dentistry. Al-Attar also won the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) two-minute poster pitch earlier this year. 

“We are honored to work with these emerging entrepreneurs and scientists,” said Eric Hartman, director of the Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network. “They have come a long way in such a short period of time, and we’re looking forward to their continued success as they navigate their individual entrepreneurial road maps. The team’s abilities to work with entrepreneurial support staff at various colleges has clearly been beneficial for them.”

The Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship & Lexington Office of the Kentucky Innovation Network is part of UK’s Gatton College of Business and Economics.


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