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Utah company wins $100K in Grow America contest

Published: Tuesday, May 22 2012 5:20 p.m. MDT

CompleteSpeech's Dan Smith, left, and David Larsen give their sales pitch to a panel of celebrity judges and the audience in the Grow America Live Springboard event at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday May 21, 2012.

August Miller, Grow America Live Springboard

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SALT LAKE CITY — Whoever said, "Talk is cheap" apparently hadn't come up with an idea for helping people with speech therapy.

On Monday, Dan Smith and Dave Larsen, owners of CompleteSpeech, landed the top $100,000 prize at the inaugural Utah Springboard 2012 Business Competition for their patented speech therapy device called “SmartPalate.”

The custom fit retainer is equipped with electronic sensors that record and visually display tongue-to-palate contact during speech in real-time. The device allows speech pathologists and their students to “see” speech, thereby eliminating the guesswork associated with traditional therapy methods.

"If you have a good idea, you need to plan it out (and) get all the resources that you can around you," said Larsen, chief executive officer of CompleteSpeech. "You need to believe in yourself and go do it."

CompleteSpeech beat out a dozen finalists and more than 1,000 initial entrants in the competition, which offered entrepreneurs a showcase for their ideas and an opportunity to secure local funding and resources. In three separate competitions this year, entrants will vie for $250,000 in cash and services per event with a state championship set for early 2013.

Larsen said the prize consisted of $50,000 in cash with the balance in services, such as marketing, brand strategy and public relations.

He said the long-term benefit of winning the competition is to help other burgeoning companies grow and create more jobs for the local and national economies. For his company, the financial boost and resource availability will foster faster growth and help thosands of children and adults struggling with speech issues sooner rather than later.

According to event founder, Alan Hall, the concept for the competition is simple.

"If there is an entrepreneur with a 'big idea,' we want to help them take it from a sketch on a napkin to a thriving enterprise," he said. "If an idea has moved from inception to start-up, we want to help them with resources, strategy, and processes for success."

We want to align the capital community with the needs of these dreamers and doers so that their businesses become job-creating machines, he added.

Billed as a combination of the television show "Shark Tank" and "American Idol," the Springboard events combined the energy of full-on speed-pitching by 100 finalists to the final competition show. In the concluding Springboard show, 12 unannounced teams were called to the stage to convince the celebrity judges and audience that they should win.

The day-long event at the Salt Palace Convention Center featured various stages, including a live pitch and final pitch events.

Twelve finalists – four each in the Idea Stage, Start-up Stage and Growth Stage categories — were selected according to their cumulative scores and called upon to make live pitches to the program’s three celebrity judges who included Fraser Bullock, managing director of Sorenson Capital, Amy Anderson, chief executive officer of Mediconnect, and SkullCandy CEO Jeremy Andrus.

Growth Stage winner Smith, director of operations for CompleteSpeech, said, “As we drove here today, we noted that whether we won a single dollar in this competition, we know our company far better today than we did when we entered.”

Among the other top finishers were, Quark Enterprises (Sprout) in the Startup Stage and simplicityMDsharps in the Idea Stage. The firms won $25,000 and $10,000 respectively as winners in each category.

Grow America is a national organization founded in Utah to support, encourage and strengthen entrepreneurialism wherever and whenever it is found, according to its website. The mission of the organization is to align the partners, vendors, mentors and capital entrepreneurs required to create and grow successful companies.

"Ultimately, we hope to make Springboard competitions available in all 50 states," Hall said.

The second competition of the year is scheduled for Sept. 26. A third competition will take place in December, followed by a finale event in January 2013.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

Twitter: JasenLee1

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