Abram Olmstead  | January 10, 2014

Polar Vortex = Success for 4 Boston Startups at Challenge Cup

One of the startups at the Boston leg of the Challenge Cup pitch competition said we could have cake.

Another one warned us that our chance of being hit by a terrorist nuclear attack is 10-50% within 10 years.

Personally, I liked the idea of cake.

But in this case, Dipul Patel from EcoVent Systems was talking about having your cake and eating it too—at least, when it comes to your household heating and cooling needs. EcoVent makes wireless vents use sensors to open and close automatically to redirect airflow. In addition to unparalleled comfort, the system makes your home more efficient, saving on utility and heating bills, and pays for itself in two years. (See Patel in action in the YouTube video below)

And the petite, professionally-dressed, disarmingly cheerful brunette scaring the audience with talk of nuclear attacks? That would be Sarah Haig, co-founder of Silverside Detectors Inc. Haig’s co-founder (and actual nuclear physicist) Andrew Inglis has built a low-cost radiation detector designed to decrease the risk of nuclear threats.
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EcoVent and Silverside Detectors were just two of the 15 hopeful startups pitching at the Challenge Cup in Boston.

Produced by Washington, D.C.-based incubator 1776, the Challenge Cup is a global competition to identify and celebrate the most promising startups tackling the biggest challenges in education, energy, health care, and smart cities industries.

With eight inches of fresh snow outside from Winterstorm Boreas, a crowd of 200 people (including 11 judges) piled into the new 12,000-square-foot District Hall to hear the startups compete for capital, connections, and coverage.

At the end of the night, only four were left standing. MIT-based EcoVent (the six cofounders work out of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship) won the Energy category, while Silverside Detectors won the Smart Cities category.

BrightLoop, a tool that helps teachers set goals, monitor progress, and review student progress, won the Education category, while Benevolent Technologies for Health (BeTH) won the Health category with its design for adjustable prosthetics devices that provide a more customized fit. (Check out BeTH’s YouTube video at the bottom of the page.)

The four Boston winners will join regional winners from 16 other cities for the ultimate pitch competition and weeklong startup festival in Washington, D.C. in May. (Find out more about the competition)

Where, hopefully, there will be cake.