By Boston Business Journal

The MassChallenge startup competition awarded cash prizes to 17 companies on Monday, including three that received $100,000 prizes, in the second year for the nationally-watched competition.

The companies shared a total of $1 million and were chosen from among the ⿿ final 26⿝ companies in the competition ⿿ which originally began with 125 finalist startups in May. A total of 733 startups applied to the competition.

Winners of the top prizes were Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, a biotech startup developing a treatment for blindness; Tinfoil Security, which offers automated web security technology; and Sanergy, which is building sanitation infrastructure in Kenya, by working with local entrepreneurs and processing waste into electricity and fertilizer.

⿿It⿿s a huge boost to the work that⿿s already going on,⿝ said Sanergy co-founder Nathan Cooke after the award announcement. ⿿It⿿s nice to see the validation ⿿ that this is a legitimate business.⿝

Cooke said most of the companyâ¿¿s operation is focused in Kenya, though the company plans to maintain a Massachusetts office. Alkeus, whose CEO is MIT doctoral graduate Leonide Saad, is based in Cambridge. Tinfoil Security moved its two-person operation to Silicon Valley three months ago, said co-founder and CTO Michael Borohovski.

The other 14 cash prizes were worth $50,000, and went to companies including Artaic, a five-person company that manufactures customized mosaic tile projects using robotics and CAD software. The company does its production in a South Boston facility, and has done projects for Hyatt, Sheraton and Tropicana â¿¿ as well as for Googleâ¿¿s Kendall Square office, said CEO Ted Acworth.

⿿We have pricing similar to ⿿made in China,⿿ but we⿿re made in Massachusetts,⿝ Acworth said.

Speakers during the three-hour awards event at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center included Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who touted the job creation and other economic benefits of MassChallenge.

The South Boston startup accelerator this year provided free space, mentorship and other services for 125 companies. Officials said the 111 companies that took part in the inaugural 2010 year of MassChallenge have since created 509 jobs and raised a combined $102 million in outside investment.

The competition is funded in part through a $1 million, four-year grant by the state of Massachusetts announced in 2011, along with money from private foundations and sponsors.

The winners of the $50,000 prizes:

  • Artaic â¿¿ custom tile mosaics using robotic manufacturing and CAD systems.
  • ArtVenue â¿¿ simpler solution for booking art shows in local businesses.
  • Casa Couture â¿¿ patented shoe tackling the debilitating foot issues women face during pregnancy.
  • Cocomama Foods â¿¿ gluten-free food brand that uses ancient grains.
  • Drync LLC â¿¿ mobile app seeking to become the Amazon of wine.
  • EverTrue LLC â¿¿ better donor prospect intelligence and engagement for colleges.
  • Her Campus Media â¿¿ online magazine for college women.
  • Invup Inc. â¿¿ web platform aims to make it easier to manage volunteering and donation programs.
  • Lynx Sportswear â¿¿ offers a more comfortable and supportive sports bra for large-breasted women.
  • Resolute Marine Energy â¿¿ wave-driven seawater desalination system.
  • SmarterShade â¿¿ electronically darken a window with the flip of a switch.
  • SocMetrics Inc. â¿¿ web-based service that aims to help build word of mouth and grow sales.
  • Therapeutic Systems â¿¿ portable sensory solution for children with autism.
  • UberSense Inc. â¿¿ mobile app that aims to to helps athletes and coaches video-analyze their technique.

Copyright 2011 American City Business Journals

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