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Grand prize Innovation Challenge winner receives $10K in funding

February 13, 2012

9 winners receive seed funding to propel social ventures

Nine student-led teams were selected Feb. 13 to receive grants of up to $10,000 from the ASU Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurship program designed to give undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to make a difference through social innovation. These grants will be used as seed money to propel their ideas into ventures aimed at solving global problems.

Student innovators stood to the applause and cheers of their peers and mentors as the nine winning teams were announced. The grand prize winner was Applyforall – a for-profit website that brings those looking for a new credit card together with the credit card issuers. offers a new and innovative method to a service currently unavailable to consumers.

The Applyforall team is comprised of team leader Vern Wolfley, a student in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dennis Wolfley, a graduate of the W. P. Carey School of Business; Ammon Wolfley, a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and team mentor Cindy Smith, of Zions Bancorporation. 

The team received a fully funded grant of $10,000, generously provided by Perkins Coie Law Firm – the sponsor of this year's grand prize. 

“We couldn't be more excited about being chosen as the grand prize winners of the ASU Innovation Challenge,” said Vern Wolfley, whose emotional response to the announcement was evident as he stood with his family to accept the award on stage. “As a family-based team, we have been working on this for quite some time and feel that we can finally move this further as a result of our award.”

This year 188 teams consisting of more than 500 ASU students from all disciplines applied to the Innovation Challenge, up 153 from last year. The 188 applicants were narrowed down to 30 finalists. Those 30 finalists participated in a pitch event over the weekend, where each team gave a five-minute presentation in front of a judging panel that would select nine winners.

Each winning team was awarded grants, but only Applyforall received the $10,000 grand prize from Perkins Coie.

“We were looking for an opportunity to invest in the innovators of tomorrow, and ASU just happened to be doing exactly what we wanted to support,” said Howard Cabot, a partner at Perkins Coie, who announced the winners in the Pima Ballroom of the Memorial Union, on the Tempe campus.

Another big winner was Peter Seymour from Seymour Enterprises. A returning Innovation Challenge winner, Seymour won a $5,000 grant to continue his work designing a low-cost respiratory monitor designed for infants with an elevated risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This technology, marketed to parents and hospitals, offers low-cost respiratory and vital sign monitoring equipment.

“The Innovation Challenge truly served as the launching point for Seymour Enterprises last year,” Seymour said. “I had an exciting new idea about a medical sensor but no real concept of how to go about starting a business or turning that idea into reality. After 12 months of truly innovative work, I can confidently say that all of our progress stems from this first validation. In the end, that is what the Innovation Challenge is really about.”

Other winning teams included a portable water purification system for developing countries, a personal development program for 15- to 16-year-old orphans in foster care, an interactive science community program, a modernized mechanical wheelchair, and the conversion of steel shipping containers into low-cost, modular and mobile medical clinics.

To view the list of winners, and to learn more about their social ventures, visit

This year's competition marks the third consecutive Innovation Challenge, which was made possible by a grant from the Perkins Coie and the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation in Kansas City. Additional support came from James Culver, John Dorsey, Jonathan Pinkus and David Wetta. Culver, who served as a returning Innovation Challenge Final Round Judge, described the competition as an outstanding opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators.

Hayfa Aboukier,
Office of University Initiatives