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Ben Conry immediately challenged the audience.
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever mowed grass as a summer job,” said the senior in civil engineering. “A lot of us have. Imagine you come over to my house, mow grass for me, do an excellent job, and I say, ‘Thank you for your service. I’m going to pay you 84 days later.’ You’d probably say, ‘That’s insane.’”
That’s a problem in the construction industry, Conry pointed out. But Flashtract, a local startup, has a solution. The team of software developers have designed a service that streamlines the construction payment process – saving project stakeholders, sub-contractors, and project-owners valuable time and expedites the payment process by automating many of the tedious, manual steps required.
It was enough to win over Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad judges at Wednesday’s five-team final round at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center as Auburn-based Flashtract pocketed $50,000 in prizes.
“We’re launching our software on May 1 and we need that funding to help us pay some costs that we’re going to incur – legal and insurance as well as hosting fees and testing our software,” Conry said. “This money is really necessary for us to hit that launch date.”
Conry co-founded Flashtract in 2017-18 with Blair Chenault, an Auburn engineering alum. Other team members included Garrett Raab, Alex Chenault, Terran Ray, and Austin Osborn. Flashtract is no stranger to business pitch competitions. A product of Auburn University’s Tiger Cage Business Accelerator and Incubator program, the team represented the university last fall at the SEC Student Business Pitch Competition in College Station, Texas. They will also compete Friday morning in the annual Tiger Cage Student Business Pitch Competition in Auburn, and again in April at e-Fest – among the most prestigious collegiate entrepreneurship competitions in the nation.
“Being involved in pitch competitions allows you to polish your idea,” Conry added. “You get a lot of different opinions from judges. They bring up some very hard, but good points and it helps you learn and grow as a company. Pitch competitions really help you refine your sales skills, which is something that I do at Flashtract, and it also allows you to be challenged from the judges to go back and ask those hard questions.”
Other startups competing in Wednesday’s finals included:
Snippety Snap, another product of the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator program, earned $1,000 by winning the People’s Choice Award. Haun and Cook, both doctoral students at Auburn University, finished runner-up at last spring’s Tiger Cage.
Cary Chandler, Director of Business Development at Auburn University, said that entrepreneurship and startup competitions are extremely important because, “We get a chance to showcase the talent and emerging technologies we have coming out of our community.”
“We also want to get the word out that we have programs to support these types of innovations because we want more of these good ideas to bubble to the top so that we can get the funding to them to make these reality,” he said. “This is economic development. Seventy percent of all new jobs in America come from startups and we want to nurture those startups with great ideas so that we can have more great jobs and smart jobs for Alabamians.”
Auburn Regional Alabama Launchpad is a collaborative effort between the City of Auburn, Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, and the Economic Development Council of Alabama. Startups from Lee, Russell, Macon, Chambers and Tallapoosa counties make up the regional competition, which encourages economic development and innovation by inviting entrepreneurs to create new ideas and ventures that might have a positive impact on Alabama.
Also on Wednesday, three entrepreneurship teams from Auburn High School pitched ideas before judges at the Junior Tiger Cage competition. The winning team, Caleb Kantor, Braxton Longino and Kennedy Claire Masic, pitched a mailbox that provided surveillance, and won a $500 prize.