DisSolves, which produces the first edible, water-soluble food packaging made from all-natural, vegan ingredients, has won the 2021-2022 Duquesne New Venture Challenge. In addition to $15,000 in prize money, DisSolves has been awarded legal services via the Duquesne University School of Law, consulting services from the University's Small Business Development Center and meetings with School of Business faculty on funding and strategy.
Hosted by the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business, the competition offers cash and service prizes valued at more than $100,000 and the opportunity for teams to reach bigger goals.
"Unequivocally, I found that the 2021-2022 Duquesne New Venture Challenge entrants were the best yet and the finalists were the strongest and most impressive group we have seen since the competition launched in 2019," said Bill Generett, senior vice president of civic engagement and external relations at Duquesne, who served as a judge for the challenge. "This bodes well for the future of the Challenge, and I look forward to seeing what next year brings."
DisSolves first caught attention when the team took first place in the one-minute "elevator pitch" video segment of the first stage of the New Venture Challenge, which showcases compelling and innovative start-up ideas from aspiring entrepreneurs from the Pittsburgh region and beyond.
Team DisSolves was one of 17 entrants to advance to the competition's semi-final round, and then one of just five teams selected as finalists. The teams were selected by a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs, executives and investors.
"DisSolves is an edible, water-soluble packaging that allows food and beverage companies to pack individual servings of powder-food products in convenient, sustainable pods that sell for a 55% premium compared to loose powder," Chief Executive Officer Jared Raszewski explained during the team's winning pitch video. His brother Josef, who is a member of Team DisSolves, is a law student at Duquesne University and an alum of the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business.
"With DisSolves packaging, the consumer just drops the package in water and stirs. Everything dissolves, so there's no measuring, no mess and no waste," Raszewski added. "DisSolves is special because our packaging is made with only vegan, natural ingredients that have no impact on flavor so people can feel safe eating it."
The company uses a patent-pending formula and has three paid patent agreements.
Below is a list of how the other finalists finished in the competition.
Advanced Optronics, which designs and manufactures implantable smart sensors to reduce surgical trauma, placed second in the competition and was awarded $8,000 in prize money.
InnovatiVe, a team of Duquesne University students that designed a sensor-embedded sleeve to improve the use of IVs, came in third and was awarded $6,000.
The Cerebral Aneurysm Test 7 (CAT-7) team, which developed a whole-blood based diagnostic test to detect the formation of a cerebral aneurysm, placed fourth and received $3,000.
The SimBOX team created a monthly subscription package of products and simulation scenarios targeted toward physicians who need continuing medical education (CME) credits to maintain their licensures. The team finished in fifth place and was awarded $3,000.
"This year's DNVC finalists were just terrific, and the fact that four of five teams were health care plays underscores the strength of medical innovation in our region," said Business School Dean Dr. Dean McFarlin. "Moreover, I'm incredibly proud that two of the finalists-DisSolves and InnovatIVe-included current Duquesne students. Indeed, InnovatIVe was a team of Duquesne undergraduates in biomedical engineering and nursing. We wish them and all of the finalists every success as they move forward."