UV keyboard sanitizer wins top prize at UGA Innovation District’s Quick Pitch contest

North Oconee High School students best a crowd of UGA startup ideas at 90-second pitch contest

Merritt Melancon | Sep. 15, 2021

Barnabas Li, from left, Michelle Li, and TJ Lu won the $1,000 first prize at the UGA Quick Pitch contest on Sept. 8 at the UGA Innovation Hub.
Barnabas Li, from left, Michelle Li, and TJ Lu won the $1,000 first prize at the UGA Quick Pitch contest on Sept. 8 at the UGA Innovation Hub.

Three North Oconee High School students couldn’t find anything on the market to clean their school’s Chromebook keyboards. So they started tinkering.

The result is LitPad, a flexible silicone mat that uses ultraviolet light to sanitize keyboards. The idea from Michelle Li, TJ Lu and Barnabas Li won them the $1,000 first prize at the UGA Quick Pitch contest on Sept. 8 at the UGA Innovation Hub.

“Keyboards are 20,000 times dirtier than a public toilet seat,” Michelle Li told the Quick Pitch judges. “We wanted to develop something that could clean them without chemicals that could damage the keyboard or leave a sticky residue.”

The 90-second pitch contest, sponsored by the UGA Innovation District and the UGA Entrepreneurship Program, invited entrepreneurs to share a broad outline of their business ideas for the chance to win $1,000 in startup capital. It was open to UGA students, faculty, staff and community members.

Nine teams pitched to the panel of judges, who included Garrett Williams, managing partner of the student-run UGA Kickstart Fund, and two UGA entrepreneur mentors — Ravi Sinha, an engineer and executive with Hewlett Packard and several startups, and Havalyn Hensley, who spent two decades overseeing IT operations at Coca-Cola Enterprises.

“We were impressed with the variety and motivation of the applicants in this round,” said Tim Martin, the contest organizer and associate director of the Startup Program for the UGA Innovation Gateway. “Quick Pitch is one of our favorite events and is specifically targeted to discover innovators by introducing them to the Innovation District and our comprehensive ecosystem of support.”

The judges also recognized first runner-up Erin Parks, a Full-Time MBA student in her second year at the Terry College of Business. Parks’ startup idea, dubbed Eat By, was inspired by her struggle to use the fresh produce in her refrigerator before it spoiled. Eat By would help shoppers create an inventory of the perishables in their refrigerator and send alerts and recipes from the app before their produce goes bad.

“If you had half a pound of spinach in your fridge, Eat By would send you an alert on its last day of freshness and a recipe that includes the amount of spinach you have left,” she told the judges. “This app would help consumers save money and reduce food waste.”

Parks imagines the app would create opportunities for partnerships with grocery chains that place a premium on consumer grocery data.

Other competitors in the fall Quick Pitch included:

  • Best Gift Listings, an online directory that provides gift recommendations for occasions ranging from Eagle Scout awards to new jobs, presented by John Ede, a Terry College management student.
  • InstaClean, a car detailing app that would allow customers to order an at-home carwash similar to hailing an Uber ride, presented by Danial Ahmed, a Terry management student.
  • JotMe, a journaling app that would use text analysis on journal entries as a means of self-discovery and self-help, presented by Oluwagbenga “Gbenga” Enoch, a Terry College MBA student.
  • Naymat khaana, an app that would connect restaurants and caterers with food pantries and other nonprofits to redistribute leftover food, presented by UGA computer science Ph.D. student Farah Saeed.
  • Patches, a customizable accessories concept, presented by Terry College marketing student Gianna Rispoli.
  • Pool Protection Technology, a device that would clean pools with ultrasonic waves instead of chemicals, presented by Garrett Stigall, a UGA mechanical engineering student.
  • Reckit, a social media platform that matches recommendations for restaurants, movies and music based on the users’ prior recommendations, presented by Terry College economics and finance student William Ross.