by Elizabeth Savin ’25
Arizona State University Innovation Open, ASUio, is an open pitch competition that allows student founders from across the country to pitch their companies and compete for prizes of up to $100,000! This year, we were so excited to see two teams incubated at The Garage at Northwestern competing: Hubly Surgical and InfernoGuard! Both teams walked away from the competition with prizes! You can read ASUio’s full 2022 event recap here.
Hubly Surgical is a medical technology startup working to create a cranial surgical drill designed for ease of use and patient safety. Founder and CEO, Casey Grage, Weinberg ’19 was on a six-person team in the NUvention Medical course, offered by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018. In the course, she utilized numerous resources at The Garage to help launch her company, becoming a Resident team. Since graduating from Northwestern, Casey has continued to give back to The Garage community as a mentor for the Propel program and content provider for Jumpstart, The Garage’s pre-accelerator program. Casey and her team were awarded the Human Health Grand Prize at ASUio, receiving $50,000!
The Garage also had the opportunity to speak with Kevin Kasper ‘24, co-founder and CEO of InfernoGuard, to learn more about his experience participating in ASUio, hear his advice for an effective pitch, and learn about his team's plans for the coming year. InfernoGuard is a hardware startup developing a utility patented wildfire detection and warning system to improve response time and the negative impacts for at-risk communities.
Kevin learned about the ASUio pitch competition from an alum of The Garage, Sophia Wennstedt, co-founder and CEO of Blip Energy, which took home the top prize last year. “My team and I loved the competition because it focused on hardware technologies, something that is not frequent in pitch competitions,” shared Kevin. The InfernoGuard team has spent months simultaneously applying to numerous pitch competitions and was excited to make it to the finals of ASUio. For this competition, the team did not pitch live. Instead, teams of student founders were asked to submit seven different videos on topics related to the pitch. “My co-founder and I spent all of winter break writing scripts, memorizing lines, and filming the material.” Kevin shared that the award was based solely on the videos submitted and a 10-minute interview.
Their effort paid off as the team was invited back to interview for four out of the seven prizes available. The InfernoGuard team worked to give as much information as possible in their videos so they could focus more on details and clarifying questions during their upcoming interview. They found a match with the climate change prize, providing a physical technology to help detect forest fires. The climate change prize was the team's final interview, providing them with three other rounds to prepare and perfect what they hoped to share. “When we walked out of the final interview room we knew it went well. We put in so much preparation in the beginning that we had answers prepared for every question they asked,” shared Kevin. Infernoguard went on to win the $100,000 Climate Change Grand Prize from Breakthrough Energy Ventures!
When asked what advice he had for other students practicing their pitches, Kevin shared three pieces of advice. First, he recommended that students put the work in early on. Then, he suggested they share their pitch with as many people as possible, and finally, work to create basic structures for all different lengths of pitches.
Now, the InfernoGuard team is getting ready to tackle their next steps with Kevin working on InfernoGuard full-time this summer. The team is going to use the first half of their prize to have their product ready by June 2022. This will include product testing in controlled burns and beginning to pay those working on InfernoGuard. The team has been working incredibly hard on the product for five years without paying themselves. The team hopes to use the second half of the prize to build inventory for deployment. In order to launch and grow, it is important the team invests money into the development of the product now!
Elizabeth Savin ’25 is a Manufacturing and Design Engineering major from Wilmette, IL. She is a student aide at The Garage and is excited to become involved in the programs The Garage offers students. Her favorite thing about The Garage is that students have the opportunity to receive hands-on experience with entrepreneurship.