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Steve Beshear
Old Capitol Annex
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Larry Hayes
April 27, 2015
For Immediate Release
Joe Hall

University of Louisville, UPIKE Teams Win Idea State U Business Competition

Teams from the University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Lindsey Wilson College, Berea College.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (April 27, 2015) – A student team from the University of Louisville could be the future of cyber security and marketing. And, if so, team members can say they got their start at Idea State U.

Two dozen college teams participated in the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Idea State U Business Plan Competition. The two-day student event, which was held at the Lexington Center over the weekend, identifies and supports the next generation of Kentucky innovators and entrepreneurs. The teams presented their ideas before a panel of judges for the opportunity to win prizes.

Engagely, a team from the University of Louisville, won the top prize of $30,000. The company has developed software that replaces the standard tests used in computing to determine whether or not a user is human. Instead of the user having to type squiggly, fuzzy characters that are often difficult to read, the software asks users to answer a question. The program is designed to defend websites from hackers.

The company also uses the answers, along with other publicly available information (IP address and geolocation), to generate consumer research data. This data helps web publishers better understand their audience and prove user demographics to advertisers, winning better ad revenue while decreasing costs associated with spam.

“This could change the way security and marketing are done on websites,” said Engagely CEO Gil Roberts, a UofL graduate student. “We intend to grow this company right here in Kentucky. This funding will allow us to go back and start hiring people. The Idea State U judges also provided excellent feedback on how we can improve our model.”

Rhizofeed, an herbal extraction company from the University of Pikeville, took home the top prize in the business model portion of the competition. The company aims to target poultry producers looking for alternatives to probiotics or antibiotics.

Using bloodroot harvested in eastern Kentucky, Rhizofeed extracts whole rhizomes for use in poultry feed. Less expensive and more stable than probiotics, rhizome extract has anti-inflammatory properties and has been linked to improving the immune system.

“Our team is mostly science majors, so we’re really learning how to build a business from the ground up,” said Erica Newsome, a UPIKE student and one of Rhizofeed’s founders. “It has been such a valuable learning experience to participate in Idea State U, get feedback from the judges and discuss ways to move our business forward.”

Other top winners from the business plan competition include the following:

  • Homegrown Brewing—University of Louisville: Homegrown Brewing is a microbrewery that will collaborate with the local craft beer community to create its beer. The goal is to develop beer that is “crafted by the people, for the people.”
  • Red Natural—University of Kentucky: Red Natural is positioned to become a leading supplier of natural, non-GMO, red food coloring replacing Red 40, a synthetic chemical used in the food industry.
  • Taboo Dance & Fitness—Western Kentucky University: TD&F introduces new ideas of fitness to the current women’s dance fitness market. The company goes beyond traditional health and fitness to create a sanctuary for building confidence and motivation among women.

Other top winners from the business model competition include the following:

  • EasySync—Northern Kentucky University: EasySync is a smartphone app that increases the organizational skills of students. By simply taking a picture of a syllabus, a student can import all-important exam and assignment dates to his or her calendar.
  • Eco Clean—Berea College: Eco Clean provides a coin-operated laundry service for customers, along with a fluff-and-fold service and access to the Internet, comfortable seating and entertainment.
  • Tree Huggie—Owensboro Community and Technical College: Tree Huggie allows people to customize their indoor and outdoor trees with “outfit” designs. Ideas for design patters can be inspired from sports teams, holidays, special occasions and more
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  • Thread Watch—Lindsey Wilson College: Thread Watch has developed an app that allows users to keep up with the latest fashion trends. It also offers price matching so shoppers can get the most of their money.

Idea State U featured 24 student teams from the following schools: University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Northern Kentucky University, Georgetown College, University of Pikeville, Berea College, Morehead State University, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, Western Kentucky University, Owensboro Community and Technical College and Lindsey Wilson College.

The winning student teams shared $100,000 in cash prizes. Cash prizes were weighted to provide larger awards to those teams whose entries are more fully developed and therefore, more likely to succeed. Most of the money can be only claimed as reimbursements for specified business expenses after the team forms a legal company in Kentucky.

For more information about Idea State U, visit

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook at or follow on Twitter at Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development is the primary state agency responsible for encouraging new jobs and investment in the state. New capital investment announced in Kentucky in 2014 totaled a state record $3.7 billion, spurring more than 15,000 projected new jobs. The Commonwealth also received Site Selection magazine’s nationally acclaimed Governor’s Cup for most economic development projects per capita last year. Information on available industrial properties, workforce development assistance, incentive programs, community profiles, small business development and other economic development resources is available at

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