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The event may have been hosted by Rollins College, but it was dominated by UCF Knights with materials science and engineering backgrounds. Two Knight-led startups took first and second place at the Crummer Graduate School of Business’ 2023 Venture Plan Competition, one of Central Florida’s largest pitch competitions.

Kismet Technologies, led by Christina Drake ‘07PhD, won the top prize of $50,000, while Soarce, founded by Derek Saltzman and Mason Mincey, came in second place and received $25,000. Mincey said the win is a victory for Soarce, which uses seaweed to develop leathers and fabrics that are fire resistant and UV protectant.

“It feels great, especially since we only made it to the semifinals last year,” Mincey says. “It reminded us how far we have come in such a short time.”

The Venture Plan Competition, now in its eighth year, is open to all startups that are headquartered in Central Florida. The businesses compete for mentorship, funding and exposure to the region’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Over the past eight months, Soarce has worked with leAD, a Lake Nona-based sports and health technology accelerator that was co-founded by the grandson of the creator of Adidas. Through their partnership, Soarce has secured over $650,000 from grants and investors.

With the prize money in hand, the UCF Knights will further develop their manufacturing setup in Lake Nona and run pilot studies with recognizable brands. They also plan to apply for a Small Business Innovation Research grant through the National Science Foundation, and of course, participate in more pitch competitions.

Earlier this year, Soarce also participated in the Synapse Summit and won $20,000 at the event’s Innovation Awards ceremony.

Written by Marisa Ramiccio