Hedgecock’s PinPtr wows Spark Nashville crowd, takes win

Charleson Bell pitches Flash Crystal at Spark Nashville, held Thursday at Events on Third in downtown Nashville.

Tech lovers crowded three stories of a downtown Nashville event space Thursday night, standing in hushed silence as two Vanderbilt engineers and eight other inventors argued in 90 seconds each why their startups deserve support.

In the end, Vanderbilt’s Will Hedgecock, an electrical engineering postdoctoral scholar, walked away with the Spark Nashville elevator pitch win.

Will Hedgecock

He’s the founder of PinPtr, a high-precision GPS that can detect a difference in location within centimeters instead of meters. He’s already in talks with Google, he told the judges, but demurred when they asked him how it works. “Well that’s the secret sauce, isn’t it?” he said.

The event was sponsored by tech news website Southern Alpha and awarded Hedgecock 1.7 bitcoin – about $1,000, although the exchange rate varies.

Hedgecock is with Vanderbilt’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems. PinPtr also participated in Jumpstart Foundry’s Nashville accelerator this year.

Charleson Bell, a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering, also wowed with his Flash Crystal media-sharing device, using his brief pitch time to dispel the notion that consumers only buy music through the Internet. “The album is not dead,” he said.

His matchbook-sized, lightweight device can be placed on the back of a mobile phone, and the album on it is instantly downloaded. It works using near field communication (NFC) and is passive, reusable and can capture user analytics.

A planning issue forced SpotWise, a real-time parking analytics startup developed by Vanderbilt graduate Zach McCormick, to withdraw days before Spark Nashville. McCormick received his bachelor’s in computer science and mathematics in 2013 and also participated in Jumpstart Foundry this year. He said the company is firming up its proposal to attract a first round of capital.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering