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UNCW Grad Wins Innovation Grant

By Jenny Callison, posted Jan 30, 2014
SnapYeti founder Justin Beard flaunts his Yeti costume and phone cam. (Contributed photo)
A startup venture with Wilmington connections is one of five winners of the recent round of grants from NC IDEA, an organization committed to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in the state.
Justin Beard, a 2005 graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, is the founder of SnapYeti, a website that allows companies and organizations to create “Snapfests” and photo contests to promote their brand, product or cause.
Raleigh-based SnapYeti received a grant for $50,000 last month after a four-month selection process that drew 117 applications from across North Carolina, according a NC IDEA news release.
The company will use the money to grow, Beard said in an interview Thursday. Next week it will launch its Yeti Bonus System, through which companies can provide deals to people whose product, or service-related snapshots, are selected by the company. It will also debut a function to help generate more fans and "admirers," as the people who like individual photos are called, along with other features that, like the Yeti Bonus System, are expected to generate revenue.
Beard saw opportunity for his venture when he was in the North Carolina mountains, taking photos and posting them online. When a woman saw his images and asked if she could use them to promote her business, he said it gave him the idea for SnapYeti.

The online site now has 11,000 users -- more than double what it had last month, Beard said.

"We doubled our number of users in December and more than doubled them this month, and that's with no marketing," he said.
“Currently, other tools [for running online photo contests] are very expensive and don’t work very well on mobile,” Beard said, adding that SnapYeti integrates its content and contests with social media.
Beard, who often spends time with family members in Wilmington, will be in town Feb. 7 as the featured speaker for a lunchtime session at UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information, click here.
NC IDEA is a nonprofit organization that targets promising technology companies that need help bridging the gap between initial product development and venture capital funding, according to its release. The organization helps young, innovative companies mainly by providing early financing in the form of grants.

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