Providence School Teacher’s idea for one-handed Video Game Controller Wins Elevator Pitch Contest

PROVIDENCE, RI – A teacher at a Providence charter school was named the top presenter at last night’s (Dec. 5) statewide Elevator Pitch Contest, sponsored by the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, for his idea to create a one-handed video game controller.

Charles Johnson, who teaches history and law at Times Squared Academy, said his proposed product, Nhuad Single Hand Video Game Controllers, designed to allow for people who only have use of one hand, “opens up a vast untapped market of potential buyers that have previously been unable to play video games.”

He and nine other presenters took home a total of $1,000 in cash prizes.

“Telling your business story in a few compelling words is an important skill for entrepreneurs who need to attract investors, partners, and employees,” said Competition Co-chair Peggy Farrell, partner in the law of firm of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP. “The judges did a great job providing pointers that will help the presenters, as well as audience members, who came to listen and learn.”

The eighth annual Rhode Island Elevator Pitch Contest, which drew 125 people, including 32 presenters, experienced entrepreneurs and novices alike, was hosted at the facilities of startup accelerator Betaspring.

Each presenter had 90 seconds to present their idea to a panel of eight judges, who then gave verbal feedback about the clarity and persuasiveness of the pitch.

The other winning presenters were as follows:

  • Joshua Ezickson, a Brown University student, who pitched Spruce, a full-service coat check system for bars and restaurants.
  • Jesse Hartheimer, a Brown University student, who pitched Pronto, a smartphone application that allows users to browse a restaurant’s menu and order food and drinks on impulse.
  • Jonathan Hilgart, a Brown University student, who pitched Modif(eyes), which enables eye glass wearers to personalize their glasses.
  • Rob Hunter, a Babson College student, who pitched HigherMe, which allows prospective job applicants to submit a video to stores where they want to work.
  • Shelly Nicholas, of Providence, who pitched Pretty Knotty, an alternative to traditional hair elastics.
  • Luke Purcell, of Providence, who pitched Careericulum, a platform to help individuals and organizations design effective training programs.
  • Maeve Jopson, of Providence, who pitched Increment, a line of playthings for inclusive learning that encourage independence and exploration among children of all abilities.
  • Peter Simpson, a Brown University student, who pitched Ventfull, a software front end for event databases already in place at schools to provide students with access to information in the way they think.
  • Cliff Weitzman, a Brown University student, who pitched BoardBrake, a removable foot-activated brake for longboards/skateboards.

Judging the contest were:

  • Scott DePasquale, chairman and CEO of Utilidata
  • Jakob Garrow, co-founder and CEO of
  • John Gray, founding partner of Biomedical Structures
  • Ann-Marie Harrington, president of Embolden
  • Dr. Rajiv Kumar, founder and CEO of ShapeUp
  • Cynthia Reed, president and CEO of LTR Holdings LLC
  • Soren Ryherd, president and co-founder of Working Planet
  • Thorne Sparkman, managing director of Slater Technology Fund

Sponsors of the 2014 Competition

Lead sponsors of the 2014 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition are Cumulus Media-Providence, Davol Inc., Edwards Wildman, Embolden, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., Ltd., Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, and the University of Rhode Island.

Also supporting the competition are AAA Southern New England, Bank of America, Brown University, Bryant University, Collette Vacations, FM Global, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Johnson & Wales University, Providence Business News, Providence College, Rhode Island School of Design, Roger Williams University, Slater Technology Fund, Utilidata, and Verizon New England.

Additional sponsors include Bank Rhode Island, Betaspring, Biomedical Structures, Business Development Company, Care New England Health System, Center for Women and Enterprise, Centreville Bank, Cherrystone Angel Group, Community College of Rhode Island, CVS/Caremark, Deepwater Wind, Dimeo Construction Company, Freedom National Bank, and Gilbane Inc.

Also, GTECH Corporation, Haverhill Incorporated, Hayes & Sherry Real Estate Services,, The Moore Company, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Navigant Credit Union, Nortek, Inc., RBS Citizens, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island Foundation, Santander Bank, ShapeUp, Starkweather & Shepley, Tech Collective, Teknor Apex, Washington Trust, and Ximedica.

About the Competition

Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition recently was named one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded more than $1.4 million in prizes to competitors developing companies across many industries.

In addition to awarding prizes, the competition hosts educational events in the months leading up to the application deadline in early April. They include business development, financial planning, and presentation skills workshops. In addition, the competition hosts the annual Rhode Island Elevator Pitch Contest. Complete competition information, including rules, application procedures, guidelines, and business plan resources, is available at

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