U of A Student Startup Teams Capture First Place in Both Divisions at Arkansas Governor's Cup

U of A Student Startup Teams Capture First Place in Both Divisions at Arkansas Governor's Cup
Cari Humphry

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nivera Solutions, a graduate student startup at the University of Arkansas including students from the College of Engineering and the Sam M. Walton College of Business, won the high growth/technology division Thursday at the 21st annual Governor's Cup. The victory secured Nivera $25,000 and the final spot in next week's Heartland Challenge competition.  

The company, led by Giselle Toledo, a master's candidate in materials science and engineering, has created a durable, multifaceted product that prevents ice from coating a metal surface, based on a technology licensed from Fayetteville-based Surftec Engineering. Nivera believes the product will be widely applicable, from protecting energy infrastructure to fighting food waste. The team also includes M.B.A. students Angela Gardner, Neil Ross, and Hayden Proctor, and biomedical engineering master's candidate Katrina Michaels. The students met and developed their business in the U of A's graduate New Venture Development program

"This recognition affirms that Nivera Solutions is on the right track and that our product, our approach to the market, and our perspective on how we deliver value to our customers are all well aligned," Toledo said.  

"This is our first definitive step to revolutionizing the market with our sustainable, multifunctional nanotechnology surface protection solutions. We are grateful for the opportunity to compete in the Heartland Challenge so that we can showcase innovative technology created in Arkansas." 

Simple & Sweet Creamery, led by Coleman Warren, an undergraduate industrial engineering student, captured the small business division, which focused on retail and hospitality ventures or service industries. Warren, who was also recently elected student body president, developed the social venture to leverage a widening market for artisanal foods. The business donates a portion of its profits to combat food insecurity in Arkansas. 

"We were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to present at the Governor's Cup. With this news, we intend to apply for a KIVA loan for $15,000 which combined with the $15,000 cash prize will allow us to launch a food truck in Fayetteville this summer," Warren said.  

"Most importantly, the money from the Governor's Cup will allow us to donate more meals to our community and spread our message of love, comfort, and generosity. Thank you to everyone involved in the process." 

ReGen Technologies, which is led by Astha Malhotra, a doctoral student at UAMS in Little Rock, won second place in the high growth/technology division. The company has a patent-pending device that seeks to be the future of vascular grafts, as it reduces surgery risks and costs while also supporting immune defense. Team members also include Grayson Morrow and Emily Wiencek. 

GreenGreens, a software application that helps users become more climate-friendly consumers, won the elevator pitch competition for the high growth/technology division. Molly Bombonato, an M.B.A. student in Walton College, is team lead and delivered the pitch. 

Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the ceremony virtually, telling teams the "rigors of this competition" will prepare them for future leadership roles. 

"This past year has been a challenge, but COVID-19 couldn't stop the creativity and innovation that is in the DNA of Arkansas." Hutchinson said. 

Rush Deaon, CEO of Arkansas Capital Corp., which helped establish the competition in 2001, thanked the Walton Family Foundation for its support of the Governor's Cup. 

"The entrepreneurial ecosystem that's been built in Northwest Arkansas is evident everywhere you walk," Deacon said. 

This year's Governor's Cup included 34 teams from eight Arkansas colleges and universities.  

The distribution of the Governor's Cup $100,000 cash prize pool includes $25,000 to the winner of the high growth/technology division and $15,000 to the winner of the small business/lifestyle division.  

Established in 2001 to promote college students and entrepreneurial endeavors, the Governor's Cup has awarded nearly $3 million in cash prizes to almost 900 teams made up of future Arkansas business leaders.  

The Governor's Cup annually seeks to promote and support college students in new venture creation while also building bridges between higher education and the entrepreneurial community.  

U of A Teams

  • Nivera Solutions — Giselle Toledo, master's student, Materials Science Program; Angela Gardner, Hayden Proctor, and Neil Ross, Master of Business Administration; Katrina Michaels, Master of Biomedical Engineering 
    Nivera has created a durable, multifaceted product that keeps ice from coating a surface. The product is applicable from protecting energy infrastructure to fighting food waste. The team, which includes materials science and M.B.A. students currently in New Venture Development, plans to use their funding to test the product on preventing ice accumulation on cell towers. 

  • Simple & Sweet Creamery — Coleman Warren, senior industrial engineering major, Honors College and College of Engineering
    Coleman Warren has established a locally sourced, homemade ice cream company that donates a portion of its revenue to the NWA Food Bank to fight food insecurity. The company has surpassed $7,000 in revenue in three months — with no debt and little overhead — and donated roughly 10,000 meals. 

  • ReGen Technologies — Astha Malhotra and Emily Wiencek, Master of Business of Administration; Grayson Morrow, Master of Finance
    ReGen has a pilot product SynFloTM, a vascular graft based on a patent-pending technology that significantly reduces vascular surgery-associated risk and health care costs. The technology has also shown promise as a potential solution to other frustrations related with infections, suggesting the proprietary technology could yield a broader surgical product platform. ReGen Technologies includes biomedical researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and business students from the U of A who are all enrolled in the New Venture Development program. 

  • GreenGreens — Molly Bombonato, Amanda White and John Taylor, Master of Business Administration; Olga Khokhryakova, Master of Science in Community Health Promotion
    GreenGreens is battling climate change by helping users be more conscious about how they're shopping impacts the planet. Formed in the graduate New Venture Development program, their team's platform merges personal sustainability goals with purchasing data to help users take action. 

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio and Startup Village, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new.   

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.


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