UWO’s own ‘Shark Tank’ casts $1,500 to innovative students


Josh Lehner / Advance-Titan — From left, Matthew Hansen took third place, Cole Saathoff received first place and Ari Malloy took second place in UWO’s Elevator Pitch contest Tuesday night.

Josh Lehner, Staff Writer

Students pitched their ideas for the chance to win $1,500 during UWO’s Elevator Pitch event on Tuesday night, with many students focusing on sustainability and new approaches to established markets.

Participants were given 90 seconds to pitch their idea and were asked questions by a panel of judges afterward.

Top place finishers took home a cash prize provided by UW Oshkosh’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CEI), as well as the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization. First place won $1,000, second place $350 and third place $150.

First place also received a spot in the upcoming 2023 Culver’s Business Model Competition, an annual competition similar to the Elevator Pitch, providing participants an opportunity to compete for $10,000 in funding and exclusive access to venture development resources.

In 2021, Yintong Qui, who was at the time a freshman at the Fox Cities campus, won the grand prize for CloudWorld, a website similar to Linkedin designed for the Chinese market.

This year, students pitched ideas including a holistic approach to traditional medicine, a virtual firearm simulator, an on-campus electronic repair store, and a clothing brand that plants trees and cleans beaches.

After deliberating, the judges awarded Cole Saathoff the first-place prize for his company Luster Technology, a touch-activated, customizable lightswitch company. Saathoff said he felt “pretty good” after winning.

“I’m going to continue to work on looking at the feasibility of bringing it to market,” he said. “There’s a lot of certifications and things that you need to look at and get approved. I also have to hammer out the logistics of development and manufacturing.”

Ari Malloy won second place for his holistic approach to traditional medical ideas revolving around depression and anxiety. As a meditation and yoga teacher, Malloy has worked with people who have mental illnesses, and his company, named Soulution, aims to use approaches he’s learned to help combat depression and anxiety.

“It feels pretty good to win,” he said. He added: “I work every day with clients. Currently, it’s just dialing in on marketing and getting campaigns in front of the right people. It’s a hard market because social media companies don’t want to promote posts discussing depression.”

Third place was awarded to Matthew Hansen, who highlighted the devastation of deforestation both by humans and natural disasters during his 90-second pitch. His company, Forest Fit Clothing, uses its profits to combat deforestation. During purchase, customers are able to choose between allocating the money spent to planting a tree, cleaning a beach or cleaning a park.

“What people like about us is that we take $0,” he said during his pitch.

Hansen said he cleans beaches and plants trees “anywhere from Utah, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to around here.”

UWO CEI Program Manager Megan Hart said that the Elevator Pitch event is designed to give every student an opportunity to share their ideas and think critically.

“The low barrier structure creates a low-stress, educational environment that is less focused on diving into the intricate details of a business model and more on sharing ideas and supporting your peers,” Hart said. “We like to remind students that no matter their intended career path, there are always opportunities to innovate and be their own boss.”