Published On: 08/03/2021Categories: Agbiosciences, AgTech, Entrepreneurs

Backyard App Wins TechPoint S.O.S. Challenge AgTech Category

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22 students to share $25,000 prize purse in TechPoint’s 2021 S.O.S. Challenge 

Purdue University leads in number of student winners; multiple winners also from IUPUI, Indiana University, Wabash College, Trine University, Eleven Fifty Academy and The Ohio State University


Twenty-two students from a dozen universities and colleges will share in the $25,000 Summer Opportunities for Skills Challenge (S.O.S. Challenge) prize purse and an opportunity to participate in Elevate Ventures’ Fall 2021 Regional Nexus Pitch Competition.

The event was the culmination of six weeks of work that involved 170 students and recent coding graduates from Eleven Fifty Academy working on 39 teams with 81 coaches from 42 Indianapolis area tech companies. The objective was to create solutions for challenges communities across Indiana (and the world) are currently facing as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Learn about the student developed technologies below.

S.O.S. Challenge participants were asked to devise a solution to current challenges in five categories and build a portfolio worthy project. Indy area tech companies supported the program through volunteer coaches who dedicated time and expertise to give students guidance, inspiration and a glimpse at what it’s like to work in Indiana tech. The experience also helped the students begin to develop a network that can help them later in their careers.

TechPoint created the S.O.S. Challenge in 2020 to help salvage planned summer internships that were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year’s Challenge proved so popular, we brought it back this year and again were impressed with the level of commitment and energy students brought to the competition,” said Mike Langellier, CEO of Techpoint. “It’s wonderful seeing how this crazy idea born out of a crisis just a year ago has turned into a powerful platform for pre-internship students to develop valuable skills, taste a startup experience, expand their networks, and demonstrate their capabilities and character.”

Keegan Briskey, an Informatics major at IUPUI and member of Healthcare – Team 2, said the experience helped him develop communication and collaboration skills that will be invaluable in the future. “I speak for myself and others when I say that I am grateful for the time that I have spent working on my project, and learning so much about our challenges,” he said. “I know that I will carry the skills I have gained during the last six weeks wherever I go and to all that I do.”

Authenticx CEO Amy Brown, TechPoint’s 2020 Rising Entrepreneur of the Year, served as keynote speaker and spot advisor to the winning teams as they outlined their projects. Brown built her company from scratch, working with tech experts to bring to life her idea of improving communications between health care companies and patients by analyzing and activating customer interaction data at scale. “It’s really wonderful to see the energy and ideas coming from these young entrepreneurs and future leaders,” Brown said. “It’s invigorating to see the next crop of great ideas starting to grow.”

Landon Young, executive director, University Initiatives and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Elevate Ventures, which supports startups, advised the teams on next steps for bringing their projects to market. He congratulated the students on surprising the venture capital firm with their ideas and encouraged them to apply for the next Elevate Ventures pitch competition, where they could earn up to $80,000 in seed capital. “The fact that you found markets we hadn’t heard of is awesome,” he said

In the Indiana Agriculture category, Team 7 created the Backyard app, which it calls  “the Etsy of Produce.” It gives the average gardener a platform to show off their skills while giving small-town farmers an audience to sell their excess vegetable produce. Members: Lindsay Newell and Ginger Alford, Eleven Fifty Academy; Prajith Narendran, Indiana University; and Allen Zheng, Purdue University.

Each of the 170 participants who successfully completed the S.O.S. Challenge received a $500 stipend. S.O.S. Challenge applicants came from 29 Indiana universities and 13 schools from around the country, as well as three non-profit coding academies.