The startup eyeQ won the 2012 Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition Finals last night at the University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business.
The founders, Michael Garel, CEO, and Harish Jayakumar, CTO, beat 15 other teams during the semifinals held earlier in February and three teams in the finals. The students will receive their MBAs this year. As winner of the competition, eyeQ receives a one-year membership and an office in the Austin Technology Incubator. eyeQ will also go on to compete in the 2012 Global Venture Labs Investment Competition that will be held in Austin in early May.

eyeQ's founders Michael Garel and Harish Jayakumar pitch their company

The judges thought eyeQ had the best idea, strongest management team and the clearest and most persuasive business plan and oral presentation.
eyeQ has a system to monitor consumer purchasing behavior which includes in-store cameras, analytical software and a smart screen. The system is designed to encourage consumers to buy products in the store instead of going online to make a purchase.
Every month, people use Amazon’s smart phone price scanning app to do about 20 million product searches, Garel said. That means the consumers go to the store to evaluate the product they want to buy and then they scan it with their phones and buy it online.
“Something needs to be done to prevent these online retailers from hijacking sales from brick and mortar stores,” Garel said.
A $17 billion market exists for analyzing and influencing consumer behavior, he said.
“Retail stores have a compelling need to understand and influence consumer purchasing behavior and provide an “online” experience in store,” Garel said.
That’s where eyeQ comes in. It monitors consumer purchase behavior at the shelf level with eyeQ’s dedicated camera, software and server. The system can then offer the consumer product information on a smart screen at the shelf and display a special price if the consumer buys in the next 60 minutes.
eyeQ has entered into a beta test at Golfsmith’s stores. It then plans to approach Home Depot, Costco Wholesale and other retailers like Target, Lowe’s and Best Buy
eyeQ is seeking to raise $450,000 to finish development and do the initial deployment of its system this year. Next year, eyeQ plans to raise another $850,000 to expand to 30 stores. Its goal is to be in 220 stores by 2014. The founders have already invested $44,000 in the project.
eyeQ competed against Embarkly, Athena Laboratories and Simple Invest.

Rob Adams, director of the Venture Labs Investment Competition, announcing eyeQ as the winner

For the first time in the competition’s history, the judges did not declare a second, third and fourth place finisher, said Rob Adams, director of the Venture Labs Investment Competition. He made the announcement at a gathering at Gabriel’s at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center following the competition.
“The rest of the competitors were too evenly matched,” he said.
One of the competitors was Embarkly, a pet boarding service, seeking to become the “Expedia” of the $2 billion industry.
The service helps pet owners make reservations at pet boarding facilities, said Travis Skelly, one of its founders. Nicole Dimetman is the cofounder and CEO.
“The problem is that finding a place to board my pet sucks,” Skelly said. “It’s time consuming, inconvenient and just dropping a dog off at some random location is not ideal.”
The Embarkly online marketplace allows users to log on and make a reservation at a boarding facility with little hassle, Skelly said.
Skelly estimates the company could achieve potential annual revenue of $72.5 million with a 10 percent market stake. It faces competition from,, and others. The company makes money by generating leads for pet boarding facilities.
Embarkly is seeking $400,000 financing.
Simple Invest showed off its cloud-based automated platform that enables investors to diversify and rebalance their portfolio and improve their long-term investment results.

Texas Longhorn Network interviews Rohit Sharma, CEO of Simple Invest

Rohit Sharma, CEO, said diversification leads to investment success.
His product is aimed at the 96 million people in the U.S. with portfolios of $100,000 to $1 million.
Those investors have to chose among 7581 mutual funds and more than 4,500 broker dealers.
“The market is large,” Sharma said. “There is a genuine pain point.”
Next year, Simple Invest launches with five beta users. It plans to expand to 187,500 users by 2021 and revenue of $34 million.
Its competitors include spreadsheets, financial advisors, product providers and financial software.
Sharma is seeking $550,000 preferred equity for 17 percent stake in Simple Invest.
Athena Laboratories pitched its patented laser treatment for cellulite called FemtoSmooth.
FemtoSmooth is a pain-free, effective, cellulite removal involving a cool laser technology, which is high intensity laser treatment for a very short duration. It effectively treats the cause of cellulite and it’s minimally invasive. It only requires one treatment, which takes 20 to 30 minutes.
Athena Laboratories had the largest management team of all the competitors. The team is comprised of Albert Alvarez, Alex Garcia, Dr. Wendell Craig Johnson, Wayne P. Whitmore, Ravine Woods and Yewen (Wendy) Wu.
The cellulite treatment industry is a $6 billion market in the U.S. with 85 percent of women and 25 percent of men affected by cellulite, said Woods.
“There’s a market demand for an effective treatment for cellulite,” Woods said. “Over the last 10 years – cosmetic minimally invasive procedures are up 110 percent and cellulite treatments are up 30 percent.’’
So far, FemtoSmooth’s inventors have invested $1.4 million and they have 14 patents on the technology. The team is seeking another $7.5 million to take the product to market.
The company projects $45 million in revenue by 2017.