While an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, Kevin Plank – now a 44-year-old billionaire – started a rose-selling business he called “Cupid’s Valentine Rose Delivery.” He used the profits he earned from the small-time startup to fund an athletic apparel company, known today as Under Armour.
Though he now heads one of the world’s largest producers of athletic performance gear, Plank acknowledges that he had to start small. That’s why he established Cupid’s Cup, a national entrepreneurial competition designed to support students who have started their own businesses. For years, Cupid’s Cup was hosted by the University of Maryland, Plank’s alma mater and the home of its namesake. Now in its 12th iteration, the finals of the 2017 Cupid’s Cup will be moved to Northwestern, a nod to the university’s reputation as a world-class business incubator.
Selected out of a pool of hundreds, two semifinalists are being represented by recent Northwestern alumni. FlyHomes and Luna Lights will showcase their businesses on Feb. 6 at Under Armour’s global headquarters in Baltimore. If either advances to the finals, they will be competing at home in Evanston on March 30 for the chance to win more than $100,000 in total prizes.
FlyHomes was co-founded in June 2015 by two Kellogg students, Stephen Lane and Tushar Garg. They started the company with the goal of making homebuying “seamless, transparent, and fun.” To do that, they’ve reimagined the way real estate brokerages work with a platform that combines AI technology, personalized customer service and a rewards program like no other.
FlyHomes works with fellow Seattle-based Alaska Airlines to provide customers with frequent flyer miles when they purchase a home. The incentive of getting free miles is a way to differentiate the FlyHomse from competitors, Lane says, but that part of the business is just the hook. Lane and the rest of his team are confident the home-buying platform itself is one of the best in the industry.
Luna Lights is made up of a team of five Northwestern students from a diversity of backgrounds. The problem they address is simple: falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three adults over the age of 65 falls at least once a year. And in 2010, medical costs for senior fall injuries in the United States exceeded $30 billion. Luna Lights has created a device that provides automatic lighting assistance for the elderly in order to reduce the risk of falling at night.
In addition to simply providing light, the company also sends automatic notifications to caregivers when lights remain on for an extended period of time. Using cloud-based analytics, Luna Lights tracks how long and how often patients are getting up at night and sends the data to caregivers, who use it to pinpoint patterns and take the necessary preventative actions.
FlyHomes and Luna Lights will compete in the semifinals of Cupid’s Cup on Monday, Feb. 5.