DISRUPTIVE PEOPLE

SCU was well represented at the annual TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield with two finalists and a judge.

DISRUPTIVE PEOPLE

For a time, the stage at the closely watched TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield competition in San Francisco last fall felt like Grand Reunion.

The six finalists included eventual winner Allison Kopf ’11, pitching her indoor-farming control system Agrilyst, and Casey Kute Schulz ’08, singing the prospects of Nailbot, a fingernail-painting device. The six judges at the competition, which in past years has helped launch tech giants such as Dropbox, included angel investment firm partner and tech startup superscout Brian Pokorny ’02.

NAILING IT

At first blush, the Nailbot is an inkjet printer that applies fingernail art. But its creators hope the beauty machine also will make tech careers look good to girls.

Robotics engineer Schulz, a veteran of the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, is one of the co-founders and the technology lead of Preemadonna, the startup that makes the device.

The Nailbot works with a smartphone app and can print any digitized image, including photos, onto a nail with a pass or two of the printer head. Getting nail art done professionally at a salon costs about $5 a nail, Schulz says. The Nailbot costs $199 and comes with enough ink to do 5,000 manicures, she says.

Schulz says the initial target market for the device is teen and tween girls.

“Ninety-two percent of teens decorate their nails regularly, with 14 percent decorating daily,” she says.

But the company also has a social aim: encouraging girls to consider careers in technology, like its founders, Schulz, a mechanical engineering grad, and Pree Walia, inventor and CEO. Preemadonna’s Indiegogo crowd-funding appeal offered supporters a Maker Kit (an early prototype of the Nailbot) that girls can use to learn programming.

The Nailbot itself won’t be available until this fall, but you can get on the wait list and see videos of how it works at Preemadonna.com.

JUDGE AND ANGEL

Pokorny, managing partner at seed-stage angel-investment firm SV Angel, has become a regular among judges the past few years at the TechCrunch Disrupts, which are held annually in San Francisco and New York.

Pokorny earned his bachelor’s in operations and management information systems and has proven a keen judge of startup promise. The former Google employee has made personal angel investments in Square, TweetDeck (acquired by Twitter), Milo (acquired by eBay), and Chomp (acquired by Apple). Among the more famous startups SV Angel has backed are Dropbox, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

Pokorny says he didn’t have to recuse himself from judging his fellow alumni’s entries at Disrupt. Only when the judge has a financial interest in a contestant is recusing or disclosure required.

Other alumni at SV Angel include partner Kevin Carter ’09, who made Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 list for finance in 2012 and 2013; and a principal of the firm, Abram Dawson ’12, who is on the 30 under 30 list for venture capital in 2016.

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