Finalists Selected in the 2017 Rochester Venture Challenge

Five early-stage companies have been selected as finalists in the 2017 Rochester Venture Challenge from among the 35 companies that entered the competition in January. The five finalists are competing for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes.

The finalists will make their live presentations to a panel of judges on Thursday, April 27th at 9:00 am at the Hyatt Regency Rochester.  The presentations are free and open to the public.

The judges will select the winners, who will be announced at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon starting at noon on April 27th.

The five finalist companies, their leaders, and their industry sectors are:

  • Empire Medicinals, Qiaosong George Zheng / Health Care
    • Empire Medicinals (EMMED) manufactures medicinal mushroom nutraceuticals for Chinese shoppers seeking high quality natural products  in order to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • HZ Innovations, Greyson Watkins / Consumer Products
    • Hz Innovations has created and is taking to market the innovative Wavio line of products. Wavio is the next big step in addressing home accessible technology (HAT) for the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing. The first product in the Wavio line features a proprietary intelligent sound recognition technology in a compact and modern device that plugs in standard household outlets. This device identifies sounds in the environment. Coupled with a smartphone notification system, Wavio makes hearing loss homeowners aware of critical sounds.
  • MicroEra Power, Ellie Rusling / Clean Energy
    • MicroEra Power is a start-up company, porting automotive engine, hybrid, and fuel cell technologies to on-site power markets.  Using patented technology, MicroEra Power’s ultra-efficient 200kW natural gas system will provide commercial customers backup power and up to 50% savings on monthly energy bills.  The footprint is significantly smaller, lighter, cleaner, and more quiet than traditional generators, allowing for easy installation and siting, even in urban areas.  In addition to economic benefits, our system provides low carbon emissions and strong synergies with the transition to a renewable intensive grid. Turn your backup generator into a revenue generator.
  • Primary Book Club, Erin Witmer / Software-Education
    • Primary Book Club is a Rochester, NY-based edTech start-up. Our mission is to increase the number of children who enter kindergarten with the requisite “readiness skills” by equipping parents and caregivers with the resources they need to be a child’s first and best teacher.
  • ThermApparel, Kurtis Kracke / Medical Devices and Equipment
    • ThermApparel is a designer and manufacturer of cooling apparel for people living with heat sensitivity due to neurological disorders. For millions of people heat sensitivity can be life threatening and forces them to stay indoors during warmer weather. ThemApparel provides confidence, safety, and freedom to experience the joys of life through discreet, lightweight, and comfortable cooling apparel.”

According to James Senall, President of High Tech Rochester, “These five finalists are a great example of the diversity of Rochester’s startup ecosystem.  The community continues to see increasing activity across all aspects of our tech entrepreneurship scene, and witnessing that growth is extremely exciting. We look forward to seeing how the finalists do in the competition, but more importantly, we look forward to the ongoing growth of the ecosystem overall.”

The winners of the Challenge will be announced on April 27th at the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon at the Rochester Hyatt Regency Hotel.  The three winners will receive a combination of cash and services prizes, which will help accelerate their growth. The first place prize includes $25,000 cash.  Last year’s Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon attracted over 300 business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors.

2017 Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon – Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hyatt Regency Hotel Rochester, 125 E. Main Street, Rochester, NY

  • 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.            Finalist presentations
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.          Networking
  • 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.            Luncheon and Awards (Keynote speaker Craig Dubitsky)

Tickets ($45 per person or $400 per table of 10) are available through April 21st at

The Rochester Venture Challenge is a collaborative effort among community organizations High Tech Rochester, Digital Rochester, The Entrepreneurs Network, Excell Partners, Nazareth College School of Management, Rochester Institute of Technology, and the University of Rochester


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