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College Startups Competing in Tom Tom Founders Festival's Innovation Cup

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Kathy Spangler Kathy Spangler
Kestrel co-founders Kestrel co-founders
PurPics co-founders PurPics co-founders
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

The Tom Tom Founders Festival is highlighting the future of innovation across the commonwealth.

Thursday, April 12, 14 college startup companies from 11 universities will be pitching their ideas for the chance to win over $20,000 in prizes.

“Among all of the historical elements, what was really at the founding of our nation was entrepreneurship and innovation,” American Evolution Director Kathy Spangler said

American Evolution, a commemorative group, partnered with the festival to bring the inaugural Innovation Cup.

“We like to say that Virginia is America's original start up,” said Spangler.

Groups will pitch to a panel of representatives from Reddit, Capitol One Bank, and others. Groups like University of Virginia startup Kestrel: their idea came from learning millions of babies born prematurely each year that are at risk of brain damage when moving between hospitals by ambulance or helicopter.

“That can come during transport from high-stress levels or vibrations, and I thought, ‘there's something we can do about that,’" said Kestrel Co-Founder Fritz Steuer.

They think a device that isolates movement inside an incubator will come out on top during the Thursday night competition.

“Simply because no one else is really doing it. No one else has any sort of vibrational isolation,” Kestrel Co-Founder Erik Quigg said.

Another group from UVA, PurPics, hopes to edge out the competition.

“We partner a brand with our network of college students,” explained PurPics Co-Founder Victor Layne.

Users can post a picture on Instagram - through the app - and raise money for a charitable cause with each “like” a post gets. What sets this company apart is focusing on using "real people" not “influencers.”

“Friends are listening to friends. So when someone sees an Instagram ad or a sponsored influencer post, they're actually not liking it that much," PurPics Co-Founder Aneesh Dahwan said.

The Innovators Cup is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at the Jefferson Theater. It's free, but you'll need a ticket to go.