Aiden Natalie (left) and Roland Kidwell, director of the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship, pose with the first place check after Natalie won the 13th annual Business Plan Competition. (Photo by Alex Dolce)
A Florida Atlantic University undergraduate who created an app for the marine industry won the $10,000 first prize in the 13th annual Business Plan Competition held by FAU’s College of Business and the Adams Center for Entrepreneurship.
Aiden Natalie, a 20-year-old junior at FAU, created Marine Connex to help boaters find available services near them. He built a prototype for the competition and plans to use the prize money to further develop the product and test market it this year.
Natalie, an avid boater, said he found a dearth of marine-centered apps that help connect consumers and vendors.
“From what we can see, this could be extremely successful,” he said.
Natalie’s mentor and father, Bill, had been diagnosed with Stage 3 pancreatic cancer, but he was declared cancer-free in March.
“Between that and this win, we couldn’t be ever more grateful for what the future is holding for Marine Connex,” Aiden Natalie said.
The annual competition awards budding entrepreneurs seed money for their business ventures. For the first time ever, there was a three-way tie for second place, with the three finalists earning $3,000 each.
Tyler Brack, a 16-year-old junior at FAU High School and concurrently a junior at FAU, created The Brack Institute, a nonprofit that works with schools to help low-income students.
Nicole Zarcadoolas, a 24-year-old FAU MBA student, developed Serenity Now, a seasonal subscription box, custom gift shop and online community to help people deal with stress and anxiety.
Paris Prince, 18, a senior at FAU High and junior at the university, created SPods, an innovation that allows users to wash hands without the use of any external water supply.
“It was impossible for the judges to distinguish among the three entries which one was the most promising business venture,” said Kevin Cox, Ph.D., assistant director of the Adams Center. “We’re really seeing innovative and creative entries.”
A fifth finalist won $500 in funding. PEACE Inc., headed by Vivek Sreejithkumar, Isabella (Izzy) Grande and Mariam Rizvi, uses artificial intelligence technology to detect medical incidents in senior citizens.
Held in conjunction with the Business Plan Competition was the sixth annual Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program (VFEP) pitch competition. The winner was Marlon Atherton, the founder of A-Team Solution Services, a cybersecurity company.
Atherton won $2,000 in seed funding and becomes FAU’s representative for the statewide pitch competition on June 24 at the Veterans Florida Virtual Expo. Veterans Florida is a nonprofit agency created by the state to help military veterans transition to civilian life and promote Florida’s status as the nation’s most veteran-friendly state. For more information, visit www.veteransflorida.org.