'Fastpitch' nets $5,000

Brennon Garthwait (left) and David Hartwig (right) react after winning a $5,000 prize at the Stateline Fast Pitch competition. The pair, along with Evan Preston (not pictured), created Renwig Custom, a company that builds custom guitar amplifiers.

From high-rising ceiling drills to a website for international students, local entrepreneurs hoping to sell their ideas — in three minutes or less — competed in the Stateline Fastpitch competition on Wednesday.

Held at Blackhawk Technical College for the first time, the Stateline Fastpitch competition drew a crowd that showed off more than 20 different types of products. In the end, three musicians in their mid-20s who designed a new type of guitar amplifier walked away with the grand prize of $5,000 to develop their product.

“It feels outstanding to win and these funds should really help us take our product to the next level,” said David Hartwig, 24, of Fort Atkinson, one of the founders of Renwig Custom LLC.

The second place award went to Henry Schwartz for his idea to create “Mob Craft Brewery,” a company where craft beer lovers could purchase a four pack and then vote on what flavors should go into the drink each month.

“Our main competitive advantage in the craft brewery market is that the customers choose what they want us to make,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said the $1,000 cash prize he received will help him to continue developing his product and hopefully send it on its way out the door.

Third place was awarded to Prescient Audio LLC, a startup that creates high-quality speakers that take up less than half the space of a traditional speaker.

“The old speakers have been on the market for 90 years and I want to bring this new technology to the market,” creator Paul Niedermann said. “It’s like comparing a tube TV to a flat screen.”

Niedermann was awarded a trophy and 10 free hours of product development at the University of Wisconsin - Whitewater incubation program.

Other products that were named finalists in the competition included the “iRock Cooler,” a drink cooler that had waterproof speakers installed in its side, and the “Big Mouth,” a re-writable dry erase board.

“At games you see people carrying the signs around, but the Big Mouth is meant to be changed,” said the “Big Mouth” inventor James Papke. “They can also roll up and fit into your cup holder.”

Many Fastpitch competitions are held across the United States each year, giving inventors and entrepreneurs a chance to receive valuable feedback from a panel of judges.

The local installation was organized by Rock County 5.0, UW-Whitewater and Blackhawk Technical College in cooperation with EIGERlab in Rockford. Nine judges chose the winner.

The Fastpitch competition has been held in Rockford for six years and this was the first year the competition expanded into Wisconsin. A Fastpitch competition is scheduled for Aug. 29 for Racine and Kenosha counties in Wisconsin.

Although this was the first year that Fastpitch crossed the state line, Rock County Economic Development Manager James Otterstein believes the event went extremely well.

“We had a great turnout and there was a diversity among the contestants,” he said. “It’s early to say whether or not it will be held again here, but with how it went I believe it may be.”

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