Research Park startup makes it to final round of Voodoo “Most Promising” competition

By Ruge Li

A Research Park startup, Servabo, was selected as one of three final competitors in Startup Voodoo’s first annual “Most Promising” competition.

The competition is looking for the best Midwestern early-stage startup and will announce the winner at the regional conference Thursday at Ballpark Village in St. Louis.

Over the past three months, over 100 companies were nominated. More than 1,000 people went on the competition’s website to cast their vote for their favorite startup, and the finalists were unveiled on Sept. 18. The three finalists include: Chicago-based LearnCore, St.Louis-based Champio and Servabo.

The winner will receive a $10,000 gift package that includes $5,000 in cash and $5,000 to put toward professional services for the startup.

Aaron Perlut, cofounder of Startup Voodoo and founding partner of digital media agency Elasticity, said this competition is part of an overall national conference.

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    “The conference is meant to bring together leaders in the startup space, not only in the Midwest but nationally,” Perlut said.

    Perlut said the location of the conference is important because the Midwest is a booming region for startup companies.

    Edward Domain, cofounder of Startup Voodoo and CEO of the Techli, reiterated that the purpose of this competition is to show recent innovation in the Midwest. As the competition continues to grow, Perlut and Domain’s goals also grow. They said they would like to bring exposure to startup companies across the Midwest.

    Domain said along with the $10,000 package, Startup Voodoo gives startups the opportunity to develop partnerships with companies after its presentation to “influential capitalists” and fellow startup companies during the conference.

    “An important aspect of this competition is engaging with the colleagues and peers, because they all have been through the same thing, such as trying to build the business,” Aaron said.

    Domain said startups competing in the competition will gain exposure with national companies and well-known judges of the competition, who include: Ron Daugherty, founder and CEO of Daugherty Business Solutions; Bud Albers, former technology executive at Walt Disney Corp.; and Ginger Imster, executive director of non-profit organization Arch Grants.

    “Judges of the competition can really launch the startups to lot of business success,” Domain said.

    Domain said all three of the final startups will have access to potential clients, which they may not have had access to before, because judges will introduce each startup to potential clients during the conference.

    Servabo is a startup that provides discreet, instant notifications in emergency situations. The name Servabo is derived Latin phrase “servare,” which means to watch over or protect.

    “Our whole purpose is to try to collaborate new innovations and technologies in communications so that people can get access to safety more easily and access to help more easily,” said Tim Deppen, cofounder of Servabo.

    Deppen completed a PhD program in mechanical science and engineering at the University in 2013. Fellow cofounder Nishana Ismail is currently pursuing her PhD in Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University. Both Deppen and Ismail were inspired to create the startup because they know students who have gotten mugged on campus. He also said that violent crimes occur about every 22 seconds across the U.S. Deppen said he hopes Servabo will help keep people safe on campuses and across the nation.

    Furthermore, Deppen hopes Servabo and the University will gain popularity by participating in the competition and said he is working on tightening their pitch to ensure their prototypes and demos are ready for the conference.

    “We are ready but we’re doing as much as we can to push us over the edge,” Deppen explained.

    Deppen says it is because of the support of the community, University and their friends and family that Servabo made it into the final round of the competition.

    “We have lots of friends, family members and some communities from UIUC coming out to support us. It’s really great to see so many people are behind us.”

    Ruge can be reached at [email protected].