Student Products Vetted by MU Alumni Entrepreneurs

Story by: Laura Roloff

When Netflix co-founder and serial entrepreneur Marc Randolph spoke to University of Missouri students in September, he emphasized that those with ideas for new products and services should start validating them right now instead of waiting until after graduation. And that’s exactly what students who participated in Mizzou’s new Idea Quest (IQ) competition did in November.

Sponsored by Veterans United Home Loans, IQ is one of several programs offered through the Griggs Innovators Nexus at the MU Student Center, where students can test their ideas or “collide them with reality,” as Randolph put it.

“IQ gave students the opportunity to develop an elevator pitch and present their ideas virtually to a panel of young, successful entrepreneurs,” said Greg Bier, executive director of entrepreneurship programs at MU. “The judges awarded $10,000 in seed funding after evaluating 90-second video pitches from the top nine teams.”

According to Bier, an elevator pitch is a quick, clear and concise description of a venture idea that could be delivered to a potential investor in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator. A good pitch establishes the seller’s personal brand and value proposition for customers.

IQ participants submitted ideas in various stages of development, from fresh concepts and innovations to those that already have customer traction. Each of the nine judges individually distributed different allotments to the ventures that most impressed them. The top five teams won about $9,300 of the total funds.

“Students used the IQ exposure and funding to push their ideas from concept to startup,” Bier said. “While two existing student ventures were awarded seed funding to expand their businesses, three new startups are being formed as a result of IQ.”

The Innovators Nexus is one of several hubs within the UM System that offer expertise, programming, coaching, funding and resources to help new entrepreneurs and young companies succeed. Although IQ is a Mizzou competition, it also was open to students from UMKC, Missouri S&T and UMSL. Contests based at other UM schools often are open to MU students as well, creating more opportunities for everyone.

Bill Turpin, MU associate vice chancellor for economic development, urges students to embrace campus entrepreneurship opportunities like IQ for the invaluable skills they teach.

“I really hope students take advantage of their time in college,” Turpin said. “You can learn leadership skills, become a problem solver and start working on that first company.”


IQ participants images.

Top Five Ventures:

  • Interplay – Jonaie Johnson, business administration, UMKC (won $2,700, the largest award)
    Interplay’s dog crate allows pet parents to use their phones to see and talk to their dog, dispense food and water, and even open and close the crate door while they are away from home.
  • RollOut August Bindbeutel, engineering management, Missouri S&T
    This Rolla-based company designs, manufactures and sells “muscle roller” recovery products used by physical therapists, massage therapists, athletes and others.
  • SoundOx Yousuf El-Jayyousi, biological engineering, MU
    This team of engineers, led by El-Jayyousi, is developing wireless headphones that continuously measure blood oxygen levels for health conscious individuals and those who work in high-risk environments. 
  • Rad by Design – Georgiana Rose Gnibus, graduate student in law, MU
    Gnibus supports upcycling and sustainability by transforming used clothing into one-of-a-kind pieces, including tops, jackets, skirts, bags and more.  
  • Housey Designs – Emily Housey, journalism strategic communication and art direction, MU
    Housey and her team of artists hand paint and personalize canvases, wine bottles, jackets, coolers, shotskis and other unique gifts.

Other IQ participants:

  • Meraki Fabrics (fashion and designer goods) – Alissa Taylor, graduate student in business, UMKC
  • ER4P (mental health curriculum for children) – Xavier Ransome, graduate student in health administration and bioinformatics, MU
  • CloutMarket (equity online investment app) – Mathew Pathiyil, graduate student in law, MU
  • Evolve Athletics (fitness app to connect personal trainers and clients) – Samuel Dudenhoeffer, business, MU

Mizzou Alumni Judges:

  • Jeremyah Grigery, director of digital marketing at Veterans United Home Loans; owner of NostalgiaVille USA
  • Kristen Hewitt, co-founder of Roo Storage, which national company Handled acquired in June 2020
  • Foster Honeck, chief of staff, Troutwine Ventures
  • Connor Knabe, founder of Clarity Float Spa
  • Preston Owen, president of Brickford Homes
  • Alyssa Patzius, COO, Influence & Co. and coordinator Columbia Startup Weekend
  • David Ploesser, Missouri district manager, Federated Insurance Company
  • Kelsey Raymond, co-founder and CEO of Influence & Co.
  • James Yoon, business management associate at General Mills; founder of Mint Creative while at MU