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December 16, 2013

Purdue student entrepreneurs place second at Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. and WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - A team of Purdue University students placed second at the 2013 Wake Forest Retail Innovation Challenge and received $10,000 to advance a company that provides a cloud-based order processing system for retail distributors.

The company, called Distro, was founded in early November by Purdue students Chris MacPherson, Krannert School of Management; Andrew Linfoot, College of Engineering; and Patryk Ozga, College of Science.

MacPherson said Distro was started to alleviate issues businesses face when working with independent retail distributors.

"Distro enhances the communication between retailers and the distributors that service them by streamlining the product ordering experience," he said. "It allows independent retailers to order products from multiple distributors through one online portal."

MacPherson said the conventional method is more than a decade old.

"Placing second in the Retail Innovation Challenge will allow the Distro team to dedicate more time to the project," he said. "Additionally, the funds will be used to pay for company expenses to help build the products such as hosting, API access and software development tools. Since placing in the competition, the team has been focusing on selling its first alpha product."

 MacPherson said relationships with Purdue entrepreneurial resources including the Anvil and the Foundry have helped with business development. The Anvil is a collaborative student-run entrepreneurial space and the Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub at Purdue that provides information and startup services for Purdue innovators.

"The Anvil has been open only a few months, and we are seeing early ideas becoming real companies. It shows that a space where entrepreneurs can work on their ideas is very beneficial to early-stage companies," said MacPherson, who also is a founder of the Anvil. "The staff from the Foundry has made some crucial introductions, and the Distro team expects to work with them even more in the future."

The Retail Innovation Challenge consisted of 21 teams with first place in the competition going to N2 Medical Solutions, composed of students from Wake Forest University's School of Business.

MacPherson said he was excited to see entrepreneurs focusing on commercial retail enterprises and was pleased with Distro's success.

 "It is awesome that so many young entrepreneurs are trying to innovate in the retail  businesses," he said. "Young entrepreneurs often focus on Web 2.0 startups and forget that a lot of innovation still needs to happen in the retail arena."

 A video about the Retail Innovation Challenge is available at http://www.retailinnovationchallenge.com/ 

Media contact: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 588-3340, casequin@prf.org 

Writer: Andrew Gunter, (765) 588-3341, marketing@prf.org