Pratt Student Wins 2013 Start-Up Challenge

Ever forget your contact case on a trip and you have nowhere to put your lenses? Pratt Engineering student Matt Pleatman and his co-founders have a solution for you: the Contact Lens Refresh Card, an ultra slim, all-in-one contact lens case and multipurpose solution carrier that fits into your wallet in the same way as a credit card.

Pleatman outlined the strengths and opportunities of his start-up Refresh Innovations during an eight-minute pitch to the judges and the audience at the Duke Start-Up Challenge. His pitch resonated with the judges who named Refresh Innovations as the winner of the $50,000 prize.

"This is a game-changer," Pleatman said. "This capital infusion can really help take us to the next level."

Pleatman explained that he and his team will use the injection of cash towards building out an alpha production model.

"There have been lots of blood, sweat and tears as I have worked on this start-up over the past year while also trying to balance my studies. I am so happy that our work paid off this evening."

Refresh Innovations beat out over 100 start-ups. Ten of the start-ups took part in an elevator pitch competition during the Start-Up event.

David Cummings, an '02 Duke graduate who co-founded the technology company Pardot (172nd on the Inc. 500), delivered the keynote and offered eight lessons from his experiences as a serial entrepreneur. Among his advice: "The most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur is build the best possible culture. It is the only thing you can control."

Cummings announced that he would be donating $500,000 towards the Professor Frank Borchardt fund to support entrepreneurship at Duke. Borchardt was instrumental in Cummings' success as an entrepreneur. He passed away in 2007.

The Duke Start-Up Challenge, started in 1999, runs throughout the academic year and is open to students across the university. Howie Rhee, Managing Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, concluded by highlighting the Duke Start-Up Challenge's growth. "In addition to our 120-plus Duke start-ups (up 70 percent from just a few years ago,) we had a record 500-plus Duke alumni sign up to judge - and in some cases mentor - teams in the competition. It has been a great year for Duke's entrepreneurship efforts, and we are proud that the Start-Up Challenge continues its tradition of celebrating and inspiring Duke entrepreneurs."

Article courtesy of the Fuqua School of Business