Two BYU teams, Zaymo and Mindsmith, took first and second place in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge run by Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, winning over $40,000 collectively for their businesses on Feb. 25.
Ethan Webb, CEO of Mindsmith, said the final competition took place in two rounds of presentations. First, the 20 finalists split into four groups and took turns pitching their company to the judges, Webb said. The final four then presented in front of the judges and an audience of students.
Anne Bastien, director of programs for the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, said the competition is run by students, for students. Bastien said the student running the competition recruited judges from the community from all entrepreneurial backgrounds to judge the pitches.
Brice Douglas, Santiago Gomez-Paz and Daniel Jones took the grand prize of $30,000 for their business Zaymo. Zaymo is an email embedding tool designed for the e-commerce market to reduce friction between the company and the customer, Douglas said.
Gomez-Paz, Zaymo co-founder, said there were a lot of very talented students and impressive judges. Gomez-Paz said they were up against good competition and he was not sure they would win, but he felt really hopeful after completing their final presentation as a team.
Gomez-Paz said the Zaymo team plans to use the prize money to expand their business. “The main goal is to scale this business, meaning take this technology to more companies,” Gomez Paz said. He said the plan is to hire more engineers to create a self-serve platform for customers and by doing so, become more well-known and credible.
Bastien said Zaymo has found a powerful opportunity and a stellar team to make that opportunity come to fruition.
Bastien has been in this position for 12 years and said, “I get to do this every year and it is such an inspiration and it’s so uplifting to look at this group of really really smart, optimistic, creative people. I think that our world is in good hands.”
Mindsmith, the competition’s second-place winner, was created by four BYU students: Ethan Webb, Zack Allen, Christy Graves and Coleman Numbers.
The company is a learning platform that utilizes artificial intelligence to create and distribute course material and training, according to the website.
Webb said Mindsmith plans to use the $10,000 prize money to bring on another software engineer. Webb said Allen has been the only software engineer so far, but hopes to be able to focus specifically on the company’s AI features once they hire another teammate.
Webb said the competition helped Mindsmith make connections with venture capitalists and also gave him the chance to connect with students across the state. Additionally, Webb said the competition helped them to make their narrative much more clear for when they pitch to a potential client.
Bastien said about Mindsmith, “You can tell that the leadership has spent some time with these ideas … having customers and really already being in the sale cycle is super compelling as well. It proves that they are working on all aspects of their business.”
Both Gomez-Paz and Webb said BYU has a lot of resources available for students wanting to start a business.
“We just hope to support these entrepreneurs and these ideas in any way we can,” Bastien said. “We just hope this money really does bridge and encourage them to get to the next step where they can be even more resourced by the entrepreneurial community.”
Bastien said these opportunities are made possible only by amazing sponsors, community members and other visionaries.