By Sharon Fisher
As we approach this year’s Boise Entrepreneur Week and its various pitch competitions, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back, to the far distant reaches of up to three years ago, to see how our previous pitch competitions are doing.
“Business has never been better and Cartogram is having our best year ever,” said CEO Will Clausen, winner of the 2017 pitch competition, in an email message. The company developed software that helps people navigate between places, including inside buildings – particularly hospitals. “Since we shifted our focus to healthcare wayfinding in 2018, we've grown our customer base to about 40 hospitals across 17 states. Some of our customers include St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, HCA, Lifebridge, and Confluence Health.”
The company, originally based in Idaho[sf1] , has now moved to Bellevue, Washington. “I used to live in Boise, and of course, we hope to partner with a Boise-based healthcare system in the future,” Clausen said.
Future plans? “Cartogram will continue to expand our footprint in healthcare while continuing to invest in cutting-edge enhancements and wayfinding services,” Clausen said. “We will also be expanding our sales strategy with a focus on both a distributor as well as direct sales. We expect to continue to grow the team, with new roles in engineering and marketing to be allocated soon.”
Lumineye, which won the 2018 pitch competition with its wall-penetrating radar device intended for first responders, is still in Boise. “After we won the competition, we used the funds to build a functional prototype, which helped us win the Army’s xTechSearch 2.0 pitch competition and get accepted into the Summer 2019 Y-Combinator cohort,” said Cofounder and CEO Megan Lacy, in an email message.
“From there, we started testing our through-wall sensor with first responders, getting their feedback and refining our product based on that feedback. We are now expanding our non-federal first responder sales throughout the United States and are working with DHS, the Army and the Air Force on larger projects.”
Rob Poleki, CEO of Washie, the easy-cleaning automated toilet seat that was the 2019 winner, has moved its headquarters to Utah.
“After winning BSW in 2019, we were suddenly hit by the pandemic,” Poleki said in an email message. Like many companies, Washie had to pivot. “Manufacturing and production came to a halt overseas and we were left with no product,” he said. “We decided to transition and sell other restroom and sanitizer products while we waited for our manufacturer to return to production.”
But the Washie toilet seat is on its way. “In the first quarter of 2020, we were able to produce 50 units and place them in businesses in Idaho,” Poleki said. “We received rave reviews and found that our product was holding up in the market. After some final adjustments, we now have inventory ready to disperse in the Mountain West region.”
Now, Poleki is looking at expanding. “Several distribution companies have reached out to form partnerships; however, we will be selling our first 1,000 seats direct to customers,” he said. “We are in discussions with some major players in the restroom industry.”
Finally, there’s Chillow, the roommate-finding app that won in 2020. “Chillow just launched in Boise and we are excited to announce that the app is ready to download on the Apple iOS App Store, helping young adults and college students find roommates and affordable housing,” said Bridgette Johnson, now director of marketing for the company. “The Chillow team is a member of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. Chillow has also partnered with the Lofts at Ten Mile by Greystar, making it easy for new Greystar residents to meet reliable roommates. We are hard at work sharing our platform with the Boise community on social media and in town. Look for us at local events and on Boise State's campus!”
And what about the winners of the Trailmix food-based pitch competition?
“We secured a partnership with one of the nation's leading better-for-you food distributors and expanded our brand's presence across the Western states in both retail and food service,” said Snacktivist CEO Joni Kindwall-Moore, who won the inaugural pitch competition in 2018. “Our online sales continue to climb and we are expanding into new platforms. We also had a very successful pilot of our food service frozen line and are preparing to scale this project into Western states this fall, kicking off the project with notable resorts and universities.”
The company is also looking to expand. “We have an open fundraising round and are looking for investment partners to capture these opportunities,” Kindwall-Moore said.
“We have seen 103% year-over-year growth and are looking forward to a marketing campaign to grow our direct-to-consumer channel through our website and subscription model,” said Kate Stoddard, CEO of Orchestra Provisions, the 2019 winner, in an email message.
If you don’t remember the company, it’s the one that develops food using crickets, and the company has launched a new line of protein powders. “These are available in three flavors; vanilla, chocolate and the signature OP chai spice,” Stoddard said.
The company is also getting attention, such as being named to the Forbes “Next 1000” list. “We are participating in the ‘Silicon Couloir’ pitch day September 19, and look forward to broadening our network and getting the word out about our values and mission,” Stoddard said, noting that the company has added a co-founder, Beppe Amodio, who is acting as CFO and overall business strategist.
Finally, there’s Recipe 33, last year’s winner, which makes almonds infused with flavors such as black truffle. The company is based in Fife, Washington, but its CFO is based in Boise. “We’ve gotten onto QVC, and have a Delta Airlines program now,” said Founder and CEO Dan Smith. The company has also expanded its distribution network – beyond the Pacific Northwest to regions such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area -- and has gone from 160 stores to 250, he said.
The company also closed a seed round of around $500,000 in December, which was underway when it won last year. “I was doing due diligence with a private investor, and when we won, it was right in the middle of that,” Smith recalled.
Sharon Fisher is a digital nomad who writes about entrepreneurship.