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        College, Entrepreneurship, tiger cage

        AbGlo wins top prize at 2024 Tiger Cage pitch competition

        April 5, 2024 By New Venture Accelerator communications office

        All News


        Tiger Cage winner holding check with founder

        AbGlo, which is a fitness device that corrects lumbar position during core strength exercises through visual and sensory feedback, won first prize in the 10th annual Tiger Cage Business Pitch competition. AbGlo's Holli Michaels (right) accepts the prize from Auburn marketing graduate Mark Forchette, who was the driving force behind creating Tiger Cage.

        A competition that started with 21 student-led business startups competing for $80,000 in seed funding came to conclusion on March 29 when the six teams who advanced to the final round of the 2024 Tiger Cage Business Pitch Competition presented their business plans to industry professional judges in the Broadway Event Space and Theater located in Horton-Hardgrave Hall.

        Opening the event was Mark Forchette (’81 Marketing), the original driving force behind the creation of the Tiger Cage pitch competition which has now completed its tenth year.

        Student Marandu giving alum Forchette portrait

        Harbert student Olkaris Marandu (left) presents alumnus Mark Forchette with artwork he created to recognize Forchette's role in starting Tiger Cage.

        “Tiger Cage was a concept I floated in a Deans Advisory Council meeting in 2014 because I recognized through my Silicon Valley start-up experience that the skills you need as an entrepreneur are unique and require intense development,” said Forchette.  “I felt it was essential to intensify our training for students on best-in-class entrepreneurial processes so they would be ready for the world they would compete in after graduation.” 

        Mark’s advice to young entrepreneurs is simple, “Define what you believe in, and live by it. Create your playbook and live by it tenaciously. And when you get the chance, take big audacious swings. If you fail, so what. There is no failure you can’t recover from.”

        In recognition of Mark’s leadership role in starting the Tiger Cage Pitch Competition, an original piece of artwork created by Olkaris Marandu, the founder of one of this year’s competing teams, Glory EV, and a student in the Harbert College of Business, was presented. Olkaris’ favorite Mark Forchette quote is, “A well-defined problem is nearly solved.”

        2024 Tiger Cage final results

        Presented by the Harbert College of Business, the final six teams were given 15 minutes to pitch their ideas and 15 minutes for Q&A. Teams were questioned by judges on financials, market shares, product availability, etc. To support their business plans, the 2024 Tiger Cage competition provided startup capital to all teams that placed in the final six including two “special awards.”

        After literally hundreds of hours of prep work by all six business startups, when the judge’s deliberations ended, it was AbGlo who came out on top and was the recipient of $30,000 in startup capital. 

        1st place: AbGlo

        First place, receiving $30,000 in startup capital, went to AbGlo. Led by Holli Michaels and Courtney Montague of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Marianne Madsen, AbGlo is a fitness device that corrects lumbar position during core strength exercises through visual and sensory feedback. AbGlo strengthens muscles deep within the core to significantly alleviate low back pain and improve fitness outcomes.

        “The Tiger Cage Pitch Competition has been a transformative journey for our team,” said Holli. “We arrived at our first pitch competition with a prototype held together by hot glue and big dreams and through tireless work, we earned our spot at the Tiger Cage finals. AbGlo originated from a real-world need at MadFitness Santa Barbara 2 years ago, and since then our team has gained critical skills in effective pitching, business modeling, and marketing strategies. As newly minted entrepreneurs, our success is largely due to the expert mentorship and resources available at the New Venture Accelerator and the College of Engineering. Tiger Cage is a special platform, we are incredibly grateful for this lifechanging experience.”

        2nd place: Mammoth Super Sod

        Tiger Cage C Howard holding 2nd pl check

        Chera Howard (right) received the 2nd place Tiger Cage award from Mark Forchette.

        Second place and $15,000 in startup capital went to Mammoth Super Sod. Led by Chera Howard of the College of Agriculture, Mammoth Super Sod is a natural grass that can stand up to drought, contains an efficient irrigation system that can reduce up to 70% in water usage, serve as a fire barrier for homes, and produce safer sod for players. The environmental benefits of super sod include carbon sequestration, oxygen production, groundwater replenishment, and pollutant filtration.

        “The Tiger Cage Competition has helped me improve my marketing strategy by 100%, as well as improve my presentation abilities,” said Chera. “Participation in the competition has groomed me to become a more effective analytical thinker in response to questions. I am now better able to address market research, understand my target audience, and leverage various strategies to reach and engage them.”

        3rd place: Early Bird

        Third place, and $10,000 in startup capital went to Early Bird. Led by Thomas Lester of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Eugene Asante, a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts, Early Bird is a groundbreaking product with a user-friendly side-mounted push-point that activates rapid interior heating. It is a single-use canned beverage (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate) that heats up faster than a Keurig and is more affordable than a coffee shop. Through extensive prototyping, the sixth iteration demonstrated that the beverage could reach a perfect 170 degrees within minutes, all while the can's insulating coating prevents burns. This innovation allows for a hot beverage anytime, anywhere – think of it as carrying your Keurig with you.

        “Tiger Cage has been the hands down best experience I’ve had while at Auburn,” said Thomas. “While being in a Shark Tankesque competition is cool enough, I was not expecting to receive such incredible mentors and advisors. Over the course of the competition, my business Early Bird has gone from an idea to a real business faster than I could have ever imagined.”

        4th place: ROME

        Fourth place, and $5,000 in startup capital went to ROME.  Led by Alex Washburn, Jordan Snyder, Emily Glaze, Mandy McCutchin, and Madie Robinson of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, ROME,Roller to Optimize Material Efficiency,” is an innovative solution addressing the labor-intensive and physically tolling task of laying materials in diverse industries. The flagship product, the CowPaw, is an ergonomic device specifically designed to streamline the process of laying paper in poultry farms. The problem at hand is prevalent in poultry farming, where manually laying paper along feed and water lines is a time-consuming and physically demanding task. 

        “In Tiger Cage, I discovered that the simplicity or complexity of an idea matters less than the passion, drive, and progress behind it,” said Alex. “It's a journey of commitment and patience, sharpening not only the presentation of our ideas but also ourselves. Through this process, my team has not only grown stronger but also gained invaluable advice and support, propelling us closer to our entrepreneurial goals.”

        Special category - Social Impact Award: Focus Friends

        Tiger Cage Stansell receiving award

        Harbert student Abby Stansell (right) received the Social Impact Award for Focus Friends.

        Focus Friends was named as the winner of the Social Impact Award in the amount of $10,000.

        Led by Abby Stansell of the Harbert College of Business, Focus Friends is a membership-based platform designed to address the underserved adult ADHD and ADD community. Focus Friends aims to revolutionize ADHD support by empowering individuals, fostering community, and providing a one-of-a-kind platform to enhance the lives of adults with ADHD and ADD

        “I knew that Tiger Cage would help me to develop and refine my business,” said Abby, “but I never expected it would be a catalyst of empowerment. Through this process, I've learned that growth often lies just beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones, and that it is in moments of uncertainty that we find our greatest opportunities for growth, and our greatest potential for success.”

        Special category - Exemplary Undergraduate Award:

        PALS Pallets was named as the winner of the Exemplary Undergraduate Award in the amount of $5,000.

        Led by Luke Dixon of the College of Architecture, Design and Construction, PALS transforms the way the public perceives and uses discarded pallets, addressing the current problem of millions of pallets ending up in landfills each year. This waste not only poses environmental concerns but also prevents the potential of this wood to be functional and appreciated. Pals Pallets will transform discarded pallets into beautiful, functional art that makes a positive impact on the world.

        “As an industrial designer with a passion for entrepreneurship, the Tiger Cage competition has been a guiding light for me as I have been preparing to exit college,” said Luke. “The Tiger Cage competition has given me access to invaluable input from experienced entrepreneurship coaches, multiple opportunities to present to large crowds of knowledgeable judges, and lastly the motivation and resources to pursue a career based in entrepreneurship. The financial reward of Tiger Cage is enticing, but the knowledge and resources that I have gained along the way have provided the greatest value.”


        The Harbert College of Business which is celebrating the 10th anniversary of Raymond and Kathryn Harbert's transformational naming gift, is a nationally ranked hub of undergraduate, graduate and continuing business education that is inspiring the next generation of business leaders. Our world-class faculty deliver unparalleled academic rigor in the classroom, while our research-driven scholarship advances thought leadership and best practice across business disciplines. The largest college on Auburn's campus, Harbert enrolls more than 6,900 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.

        The New Venture Accelerator (NVA) is jointly managed by Auburn’s Harbert College of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation to help aspiring business owners get their start. Located on campus, NVA includes, in addition to office space, various workshops and a team of entrepreneurs-in-residence who share real-world experience for the benefit of Auburn students, faculty and the local community through coaching, counseling and mentoring.