Have idea? Need $100K? Innovation encouraged

Amazon Catalyst handout

By Douglas Esser
Invention-minded students, faculty and staff at the University of Washington Bothell are invited to apply for $100,000 Amazon Catalyst grants to help get the innovation started.

The money comes from Seattle’s online retailer Amazon in partnership with CoMotion, the UW innovation hub. Lizzie Tao, CoMotion marketing manager, offered tips for winning the money at a meeting Thursday in the Activities and Recreation Center with Mark Oehlert, who has the Amazon title of head of programs in the department of ideas.

Amazon Catalyst meetingAmong about a dozen people at the meeting were Tyler Folsom, affiliate professor, and two members of his team who are developing a self-driving tricycle, with support from Amazon Catalyst. Folsom is among the first 18 Catalyst fellows. Their work has attracted local and international media attention.

“We’re really proud of the UW Bothell team,” says Tao.

Amazon Catalyst applications are taken quarterly and the next deadline is March 26. Details are online. Here are some of the tips offered by Tao and Oehlert:

  • Have a bold, novel, problem-solving product that meets a need.
  • The proposals should be practical with the potential to impact a large number of people.
  • Write your proposal in a clear and compelling way.
  • The money is intended to launch your product. Be prepared to follow through.

“In terms of thinking big, it’s all over the map,” says Oehlert.

Abyenezer Zerihun and Anjir HossainTwo students said the presentation helped them rethink how they would pitch their project – a barbershop app to help schedule, pay and rate haircuts, like a one-click Uber for hair care.

“It would be beneficial in time management,” said Abyenezer Zerihun (wearing cap at left), a first-year UW Bothell student planning to major in business.

His friend Anjir Hossain, a Seattle UW student (human centered design and engineering ’18), said an Amazon Catalyst grant would help them move “from zero to one.”

Innovation to impact human needs: That’s a big part of what UW Bothell is about.

“It’s an outstanding opportunity for anyone with an idea to change the world to get some funding, and we’re pleased to be partnering with CoMotion and Amazon,” said Jonathan Cluts, UW Bothell director of strategic initiatives.