By Neal St. Anthony | Star Tribune
OCTOBER 11, 2018 — 11:52AM
HabitAware, designer of an interactive bracelet that helps people control compulsions such as hair pulling and nail biting, was the top-scorer among 19 small businesses, and winner of $15,000 in cash during the semi-final round Wednesday night of MEDA’s inaugural $1 million competition for minority entrepreneurs.
HabitAware, also the winner Monday of the Minnesota Cup new business competition, was created by Sameer and Aneela Idnani Kumar. In 2014, Sameer Kumar discovered that Aneela, his wife, was hiding her stress-driven habit of picking her eyebrows. The bracelet is programmed to react when it senses the destructive activity.
HabitAware of St. Louis Park also received $10,000 for being the top-ranked, female owned company.
The runner-up was Minneapolis-based Cytilife. It has developed a software platform that helps a growing list of colleges make data-driven decisions to help reduce college dropouts.
Ten finalists were chosen Wednesday night by a panel of 16 judges, following live pitches. They include:
The 10 finalists proceed to a “boot camp,” including investor and industry coaching, mentorship and professional connections. They will return to Saint Paul in January for the finals and awards of up to $1 million dollars in financing.
MEDA is the growing, North Minneapolis-based nonprofit counselor and small business minority lender; often working in partnership with larger financial institutions who deepen relationships with borrowers as they get traction and scale.
The visibility-drawing $1 million MEDA challenge, part of Twin Cities Startup Week, is funded by the Philadelphia-based Next Fund for Innovation and several corporate sponsors.
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