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Highland Gigabit Challenge finals open to public

Seven finalists have been named in the 2014 Highland Gigabit Challenge business plan competition.

The Challenge, oriented toward tech startups able to take advantage of Highland’s gigabit-level Internet service, is awarding a total of more than $50,000 in cash prizes and in-kind professional services.

Finalists include:

· Chess Research Labs (Highland)

· EatKidFriendly.com (Edwardsville)

· Ignition Machine (Ladue)

· Nationwide Veterinary Group LLC dba Vet Check-In (Highland)

· PASILOBUS (Edwardsville)

· Seated App (Edwardsville)

· SquareFruit Labs (St. Louis)

The Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville partnered with the City of Highland to organize the competition. The city also secured nearly 20 additional sponsors from across southern Illinois.

Winners will be announced at the Final “Live Pitch” Event to be held at The Korte Company, 12441 U.S. Highway 40 in Highland on Friday, Dec. 12, beginning at 1 p.m. The event will feature each finalist pitching their business concept to a panel of three judges and responding to questions. At its conclusion, the judges will announce the Challenge winner and two runners up.

The first-place team will receive $15,000 cash along with a bundle of in-kind services, including legal, accounting, branding, and marketing services, office space, high-speed Internet access, and support via the Highland Entrepreneurship Program. Two second place teams will receive $5,000 cash each and in-kind services. The Final Live Pitch is open to the public, Challenge sponsors, participants and local residents are encouraged to attend.

The Final Live Pitch will be judged by an esteemed panel comprised of the following tech and business leaders:

Matthew Homann, the CEO of Kendeo and co-founder of InvisibleGirlfriend.com, among others. Matt’s ventures share one thing in common: a focus on creative ways to solve difficult problems. For example: Kendeo draws pictures of hard-to-understand things for smart companies, and uses those pictures to build visual tools, facilitate engaging meetings and design creative workshops that help people think, meet and learn together better.

InvisibleGirlfriend.com, which won Startup Connection earlier this year, and InvisibleBoyfriend.com are online services that provide credible virtual and real-world social proof to help people avoid the societal stigma of living their lives relationship-free. Matt grew up in Highland, but now lives in St. Louis with his wife, Jessica and daughter, Grace.

Ben Burke is the director of Eetrepreneurship at Arch Grants, a nonprofit, economic development organization with a mission to create an entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure to build successful companies in St. Louis. Burke is also the co-founder of Underground Angels, a group whose mission is to connect young, business-minded professionals with early stage entrepreneurs for the purpose of providing hands-on support.

As an active participant in the St. Louis entrepreneurial community, he volunteers his time as a board or committee member of Startup Weekend Health, Startup Connection, St. Louis Makes, T-REX, and Accelerate St. Louis. Ben also serves as the Vice President of the Associates’ Board at the Missouri Athletic Club as well as the Volunteer Coordinator for the Professional MBA Program at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Terry Lammers, president At Innovative Business Brokerage Group, Inc., prior to cofounding Innovative Business Brokerage Group, Inc, he most recently spent time gaining experience in the commercial banking industry. Previously, he participated in eleven successful business acquisitions over 20 years of business ownership, gaining integral Mergers & Acquisitions experience.

“We are looking forward to Friday’s event and the opportunity to hear from the seven finalists,” said Lisa Peck, economic development and marketing coordinator for Highland. “The Challenge has done a great job in raising the profile of our community and continuing the development of Highland as a technology hub.” For the winner and runners up to receive the prize monies, they must agree to locate their business in Highland.

Patrick McKeehan, director of the Illinois Metro East SBDC, agrees with this assessment of the Challenge. “It has been amazing to see the level of interest in and quality of response to a business plan competition centered on access to high-speed, affordable

internet service,” said McKeehan. “We received inquiries from entrepreneurs across the country and received two international submissions. “

The Highland Gigabit Challenge is sponsored by the City of Highland, Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center, Singleton Law Firm PC, St. Louis Regional Chamber, Highland Chamber of Commerce, Corning, Foppe Visual Communications, Scheffel Boyle, CPA, Terra Properties, Bluebird Network, TheBANK of Edwardsville, RETKO Group, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Oates Associates, National Telco Television Consortium, First Clover Leaf Bank, the Rotary Club of Highland, Highland Communication Services, Highland Entrepreneurship Program and Moran Economic Development

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