Students take their business idea to the Oregon New Venture Championship

Graduate business students Sky Curtis (MIM), Matthew Mellinger (MBA), Qiwu Zhu (MSF/MBA) and Tracy Burridge (MBA) took their business idea, HeatBuddy, a vent attachment to create your own personal hotspot to the Oregon New Venture Championship (NVC). The NVC is an annual six-round graduate student business competition held at the University of Oregon Lundquist College of Business. The NVC has a mission to educate, inspire and empower future entrepreneurs. This interview with HeatBuddy founders covers the inspiration for their product and how The School of Business aided in their success:

PSU Graduate School of Business students and founders of HeatBuddy at NVC
(From left) Sky Curtis (MIM), Tracy Burridge (MBA), Qiwu Zhu (MSF/MBA) and Matthew Mellinger (MBA) holding HeatBuddy at the New Venture Championship trade show.

Where did the idea for HeatBuddy begin?

Our idea for HeatBuddy originated from an idea Matt had as a child. On cold mornings, Matt would race to the heat register to find the quick satisfaction and comfort that only a heat vent can bring. However, the heat vent was never located in a convenient location when it came to breakfast or wanting a little boost of heat on the couch or bed. After identifying the need, we did a little do-it-yourself home depot engineering and competitor research, and we realized that this could be an invention we could feasibly bring to market to make something simple even better.

HeatBuddy Prototype
A prototype of HeatBuddy, a simple addition to your vent that brings soothing heat through a retractable hose to improve your heating experience.

What was the biggest challenge you encountered during development?

There are many challenges we have encountered and still are working through. They vary from safety, demand, logistics, materials, to being taken seriously!  

How was your experience at the New Venture Championship?

We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to attend NVC. We tip our hats to all the competitors we faced. We gained incredible insight, advice, and encouragement on how to move forward with our business.

In what ways was The School of Business helpful in facilitating the success of your company?

We owe a huge thank you to Bill Newman and Charla Mathwick, our advisors, who helped us every step of the way. Without their teachings and advice, we would not have made it as far as we have in only a couple months.

What’s the future for HeatBuddy?

We are planning on raising money and testing marketing validation with our Kickstarter this summer! We will still be developing our product everyday. If you want to stay updated on our progress, you can find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @heatbuddyvent or visit our website at We have a sign-up sheet for alerts about our Kickstarter.

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