Six Teams Share Prizes Valued at Nearly $260,000


PROVIDENCE – (May 17, 2018) – A Brown University student who developed a low-cost software package that lets social workers efficiently manage documents and information flows was named the top winner in the 2018 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, which awarded prizes valued at $259,300 to six competitors.


Michelle Petersen, whose TextUp software packing is already being sold, took home $86,650 in winnings – $15,000 in cash and $41,650 in professional and consulting services as the Student Track winner, plus a $30,000 bonus cash award.


Winners were announced today at a public awards ceremony at the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center in Providence.


Ross Nelson, vice president of Cox Business, announced that Petersen as the top winner will automatically be a finalist in the $50,000 Get Started Rhode Island pitch contest, to be held Oct. 4 in Providence.


Petersen, due to receive her bachelor’s degree in public policy this month, said social workers typically handle up to 60 clients simultaneously, but on average dedicate only about 18% of their time to direct client service. The rest of their time is spent managing and documenting interactions. She said, TextUp, which tracks all critical information, allows users to devote more time on clients, fostering more enduring relationships and reducing job turnover.


Winning the Entrepreneur Track was Your Heaven Audio, based in Providence and led by Steve Schwartz, which offers a hardware/software technology platform for amplifying and recording acoustic musical instruments accurately and easily. Your Heaven Audio received $15,000 in cash plus $41,650 in professional and consulting services.


Winner of the MedTech/Life Sciences Award was Predictive Optics, which is developing a portable, inexpensive device that optically evaluates cerebrovascular health by quantifying retinal blood flow dynamic differences between eyes. Predictive Optics, led by Vishnu Dantu, who is studying applied mathematics and biology at Brown University, was awarded $15,000 in cash and $52,400 in professional and consulting services.


“The judges were impressed by the breadth and capabilities of this year’s winners and finalists, all of whom are developing robust solutions to critical business issues,” said Co-Chair Peggy Farrell, partner with the law firm of Hinckley Allen in Providence. “We not only wish them luck, but also look forward to working with them.”


Co-chair Anthony Mangiarelli, partner with the accounting firm of KLR in Providence, noted, “We’re only able to host the competition because of the generosity of our sponsors, who by their support demonstrate their keen interest in helping to foster the next generation of Rhode Island companies.”


This 2018 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition was supported by 58 sponsors.


The finalist in the Entrepreneur Track was PowerDocks, which has created floating platforms, such as moorings and docks, that use renewable energy sources to generate, store, and distribute power at those sites. Anthony Baro, of Newport, is the managing partner.


Finalists in the Student Track were:

  • FungEye is a rover-based detection system, using multispectral imaging, to identify mold growth before the human eye can, replacing manual inspections which often lack accuracy. The company is led by David Katzevich, due to get his bachelor’s degree from Brown University this month, majored in entrepreneurship and technology management.
  • goTeff, led by Saron Mechale who is studying business and entrepreneurship at Brown University, is a low sugar, all-natural, nutrition bar that uses Teff, a gluten-free super-grain with low-glycemic index and a superior balance of nutrients, for cardio, nutrition, and health-minded consumers.

Each finalist received $5,000 in cash and services valued at $11,200.


Approximately 50 previous Rhode Island Business Plan Competition participants are currently operating, having created more than 500 jobs, and buying services and supplies from Rhode Island companies.


A total of 61 applications were received this year. To be eligible to win prizes, applicants agreed to establish or continue business operations in Rhode Island.


Sponsors of the 2018 Competition


The 2018 competition was supported by 58 sponsors, including private businesses, professional firms, banks, investors, colleges and universities, nonprofit and service organizations, and public agencies, as well as five former competitors.


Lead sponsors were Bryant University, Cox Business, Everhope Foundation, Hinckley Allen, Integrated Media Group, KLR, Locke Lord, Materials Science Associates (former competitor), MedMates, The Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, and Sprout.


Also sponsoring the 2018 competition were Bank of America, Barlow, Josephs & Holmes, Ltd., Brown University Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, Center for Women and Enterprise, Cumulus Media, Envision Technology Advisors, FM Global, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at CCRI, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Hatch Entrepreneurial Center, Luminous, RevUp Capital, Roger Williams University, Social Enterprise Greenhouse (former competitor), Tech Collective, and the URI College of Business Administration.


Sponsors also included AAA Northeast, Bank Rhode Island, The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, Business Development Company, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Dimeo Construction Company, The Hilb Group of New England, The Idea Turbine, IGT Global Solutions Corporation, Morgan Stanley-Richard Carriere, The Moore Company, Navigant Credit Union, RI Student Loan Authority, Savings Institute Bank and Trust, Slater Technology Fund, Teknor Apex, and The Washington Trust Company.


Additional sponsors included BankNewport, Cherrystone Angel Group, Citizens Bank, Classic Hassocks, CVS Health, Deepwater Wind, Fidelity Investments, Hayes & Sherry Real Estate Services, InsureMyTrip, Johnson & Wales University, Newport Biodiesel (former competitor), Pawtucket Credit Union, StormTree (former competitor), and Virgin Pulse (former competitor).


About the Competition


Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has been recognized as one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded prizes valued at more than $2.6 million to developing companies across many industries. More information is available at

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