Start-up's app tackles diet needs - Omaha World-Herald

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The Your Happy Plate team: Brian Fritzsche, Colin Roberts, Sandi Barr, Jon Burlingame, Trevor Savage, Mike Cutrera and Francesca Cutrera. Barbara Heinkin is not pictured.

Brittany Mascio/Silicon Prairie News

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A mobile application for individuals with special dietary needs, called Your Happy Plate, won first-place honors at Startup Weekend Omaha, a 54-hour cram session of brainstorming, coding and business development.

The event featured 18 teams vying to create a legitimate business out of an idea in just more than two days. Each team gave a pitch before a panel of judges selected the winner.

Your Happy Plate was brewed up by merging ideas for nutrition and food allergy applications from Francesca Cutrera, a freshman at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who has celiac sprue disease, an intolerance for gluten, and Colin Roberts, director of business develpment at Accent Cost Containment Solutions.

Cutrera said Monday that the app would help people with food allergies like hers or people, such as diabetics, with other nutritional needs know what is in the food that they buy from grocery stores or restaurants.

Because Cutrera is limited in what she can eat, it takes her "forever," she said, to go the grocery store. Your Happy Plate would help with that tedious process.

While shopping, you can use the app to scan the barcodes of items, and it will tell you whether or not the items in the food correlate with your nutritional needs, Cutrera said.

For now, the application will target those with food allergies and diabetics, but eventually it will expand to help people on diets, people trying to hit nutritional goals and people with specific food preferences. (Hold the onions, please!)

The mobile app isn't available yet, but the group expects it to be downloadable on virtually all mobile platforms soon for $1.99. There also will be a Web-based application, Cutrera said.

Eventually, Cutrera said, the service will make money by selling consumer information gathered through the app back to food companies that use the data for market research.

The team that developed, built and pitched the business idea includes Cutrera, Roberts, Jon Burlingame, Mike Cutrera, Brian Fritzsche, Trevor Savage, Sandi Barr and Barbara Heinlein.

The team already has a number of investment leads, Cutrera said, and has an appointment to meet with ConAgra Foods Inc. about including the company's food products in the Your Happy Plate database.

Startup Weekend was founded by Andrew Hyde in July 2007 in Boulder, Colo. The first weekend had 78 people attend and launched a random idea into a worldwide movement. In the first two years, over 80 Startup Weekends took place from San Francisco to Athens, Greece. In June 2009, Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen purchased Startup Weekend from Andrew and restructured it as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Shortly after, Franck Nouyrigat joined as the third director.

Startup Weekend events are held around the world as a way to promote and stimulate the start-up culture in communities. The 54-hour sessions have been held in more than 100 cities in 30 countries. They are organized by volunteers and funded by sponsors and the Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

The panel of judges included William Fisher of Treetop Ventures; Karen Linder, a member of the Nebraska Angels; Jeffrey Meese, an associate with Invest Nebraska; and Tom Chapman, vice-president of Nebraska Global.

Five other teams also received accolades from the judges:

>> Gossip Closet, a mobile application that lets users share what clothing items they're shopping for.

>> Feed Reply, an application that aggregates text messages, emails, direct messages from the microblogging site Twitter and Facebook messages.

>> TweetPull, a data analysis tool for Twitter.

>> CollegeStartr, a platform that lets current or prospective college students raise money for tuition.

>> Slouch Couch Studios, a video game producer.

Saturday at UNO's Mammel Hall, U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson addressed the start-up groups, reflecting on the things he learned while launching the law firm and consulting service he and two partners started before he entered the political arena.

He listed a number of prominent Nebraska-based companies that started as, well, start-ups: ConAgra Foods Inc. launching in 1867 as State Central Flouring Mill in Grand Island; Mutual of Omaha getting its start by charging $5 for certificates of membership to what was then Mutual Benefit Health & Accident Association; Saddle Creek Records; Solas Distributing, the La Vista-based maker of Joss vodka and sister company of Lucky Bucket Brewery.

"Nebraska is filled with success stories like these," Nelson said. "Success isn't just measured by stock price or how much revenue you bring in. Many start-ups are created to better their communities and to provide for those who need assistance."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1414,,

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20 Sep, 2011

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