Albuquerque entrepreneurs pitch for “Shark Tank”-like contest

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Geneticist Paul Szauter thinks he has the next big thing.

The entrepreneur and scientist says his company EquiSeq will cater to a niche market with a lot of money to burn.

“We analyze the genetic material of horses to provide horse owners with information on health, performance and breeding,” said Szauter. “Join us and together we’ll build a super horse.”

Szauter’s pitch came in front of a panel of judges on a stage in the Hyatt Regency ballroom. EquiSeq was one of 11 local companies that were squaring off Monday at the Scrappy Startup Challenge, hosted by ABQid and the New Mexico Technology Council.

The competition was similar in many ways to Albuquerque show “Shark Tank.” Entrepreneurs had three minutes to pitch their idea to five judges and then had to tackle a short question and answer session right after.

There were a wide range of companies competing. UNM engineering graduate Akamee Baca Malta’s startup, As Girls Grow, is aiming to make engineering toys for girls.

“[One of our] biggest competitors is computer science Barbie who in her storybook says she can’t actually code and she needs the help of her male friends,” said Baca Malta.

One of the night’s more enthusiastic pitches came from Hubert Allen, a public health and immunization specialist. His idea is to create an app called DiseaseMorph that would try and get more people to get vaccines.

“Our smartphone app will deliver an honest, personalized health message which is not pretty,” Allen said. “You take a selfie, you pick a disease and see yourself be morphed into a case of that disease.”

“The message is… the disease is worse than the shot.”

Allen says a beta version of the app with support for smallpox and measles morphs is in the works.

When the dust settled, three companies won the prize of a trip to the SXSW V2V conference in Las Vegas and mentoring support from the judges on the panel.

EquiSeq was one of the winners. Another winner was itsums, a project planning and budgeting company aimed at the Pinterest crowd. The third winner was innoBright, which provides a technology to cut down on rendering times.

Other companies who pitched Monday include HotelUpgrade, an app to help people score hotel perks, news site NewsCastic and solar energy company PlugSolar.

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