Meet Washie & Free to Feed: Catching Up With 2019’s Pitch Winners! | Boise Startup Week
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Meet Washie & Free to Feed: Catching Up With 2019’s Pitch Winners!

With Boise Startup Week quickly approaching, and submissions open for our 2020 competitions, it’s the perfect time to catch up with the winners of last year’s $20K Pitch Competition!

The BSW Pitch Competition is one of the most exciting events of our festival. Each year has brought exciting and innovative entrants, and 2020 will be no different.  

If you’re not familiar with Boise Startup Week’s pitch competition, here’s a quick breakdown: 

  • The winner of the BSW 2020 pitch competition will be awarded a $20,000 grand prize, the runner up a $5,000 prize. 
  • The competition will be held remotely and showcased digitally during this year’s October event. 
  • Judges will choose the winner and runner up based on the quality of the pitch and the strength of the venture.  

We’ve reached out to last year’s 1st and 2nd place BSW pitch winners, Rob Poleki, founder of Washie, and Trillitye Paullin, founder of Free to Feed, to get an update and learn their plans for 2020 and beyond. Check out the interviews below. 

Catching up with Rob Poleki & Washie! 

For those who don’t already know, who is Washie? Give us your elevator pitch.    

Washie – The solution to dirty toilet seats in public restrooms. Washie Toilet Seat provides the user with a cleaner restroom experience eliminating useless paper toilet seat covers forever! Simply grab some toilet paper, place your hand over the sensor located on the side of the seat, cleaning solution will rise to the surface of the seat, wipe the seat down before use.  Washie is also the first smart toilet seat for public restrooms making labor and inventory convenient for maintenance crews.  

What was your experience during the 2019 Boise Startup Week event?   

Imagine walking in a room full of investors and entrepreneurs with a toilet seat. We had a blast! The networking was great. Not only did we meet several investors, we met advisors, potential mentors and other entrepreneurs in our field. The overall experience helped our company take the next necessary steps, especially winning first place.  

What do you think Washie did to stand out at the event?   

We sell futuristic toilet seats! Not to mention that I always add toilet humor while pitching. Just be yourself! 

What has Washie done since the event to further develop and move forward?   

We’ve continued to work on R&D. In 2019, Washie was awarded the IGEM grant from the Idaho Department of Commerce to partner with Idaho State University Research Institute. The grant has helped us to solve mechanical issues with our seat. We have a long list of customers waiting for our seats to arrive. In the meantime, we have pivoted to selling other restroom accessories like hand sanitizer and dispensers.  

What changes, if any, has Washie had to make during the “new normal” of 2020?   

We’ve had manufacturing delays with our seat due to the COVID-19, and in light of the pandemic we’ve made a decision to pivot and sell hand sanitizer and dispensers. Washie currently sells a premium hand sanitizer spray with 80% alcohol. The hand sanitizer smells great and dries on your hands quickly.   

What is something you struggled with in the beginning stages of Washie, and how did you overcome it in your role?    

Being an entrepreneur means you have to do everything. I had no experience in the restroom industry or in plastics. Google and YouTube tutorials have been a godsend!   

What’s next for Washie in 2020 and beyond?   

COVID-19 has made it difficult to launch our company. However, the world will be cleaning surfaces for the next 10 years. Our seat will be seen worldwide! Let’s go Washie! 

Catching up with Trillitye Paullin & Free to Feed: 

For those who don’t already know, who is Free to Feed? Give us your elevator pitch.    

Free to Feed is helping parents navigate food allergies. We are starting by creating a test that will allow mothers to detect food allergens in their breast milk. 

What was your experience during the 2019 Boise Startup Week event?   

Boise Startup Week was a phenomenal opportunity to spread the word about Free to Feed’s mission while honing my pitching skills both on and off the stage. 

What do you think Free to Feed did to stand out at the event?   

Free to Feed is building a critical product to solve a massive problem.  We stand out with our origin story and our passion to improve the lives of food allergy sufferers. 

What has Free to Feed done since the event to further develop and move forward?   

Since BSW 2019, we have converted our provisional to a utility patent, were awarded the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission grant, completed the Tampa Bay Wave TechDiversity Accelerator, and so much more! 

What changes, if any, has Free to Feed had to make during the “new normal” of 2020?   

Coming in to 2020 there was a lot of travel for pitching and events.  Today, I continue to participate from the comfort of my home.   

What is something you struggled with in the beginning stages of Free to Feed, and how did you overcome it in your role?    

In the past, I struggled to properly translate my passion into how this endeavor will be beneficial for investors.  Participating in pitch events such as this, and learning through the TechDiversity Accelerator and, has helped to fill many gaps, including that one, as a scientist turned entrepreneur.   

What’s next for Free to Feed in 2020 and beyond?   

Full steam ahead!  We have submitted an NSF SBIR grant application, are currently raising a pre-seed round, and will be kicking off a nation-wide breast milk study in the coming months to hit the market quickly.  Stay tuned by subscribing to or following us on social

We can’t wait to see what bold and innovative pitches our 2020 competitors will bring to us in October. Even more, we’re excited to award some great prizes!  

Will you be the next winner of the Boise Startup Week pitch competition?

Apply here! 

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