Ivy Tech Student Wins $20,000 Prize in Elevate Ventures Pitch Competition


 Ivy Tech Evansville Entrepreneurship Student Wins $20,000 Prize in Elevate Ventures Pitch Competition

 EVANSVILLE, IN – Joshua Marksberry, a student in the Garatoni School of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Ivy Tech Community College Evansville, has been announced as a winner of a $20,000 pre-seed investment for his start-up company Catena.

Elevate Ventures, a leader in U.S. venture capital, recently announced 14 winners of its last three 2022 Elevate Nexus pitch competitions, resulting in $580,000 in investments in Indiana-based startups. Each winner received an $80,000 seed or $20,000 pre-seed investment to propel them as they create high-growth businesses across the state.

“We are excited and honored to win the Elevate Nexus 2022 pitch competition,” said Marksberry, CEO of Catena. “This funding will support the development of two new products: Catena Fortify, which can boost the physical properties of plastics, and Catena Grow, capable of improving yield and growth as an agricultural fertilizer enhancement.”

Catena is a climate and deep tech company led by Marksberry and associated with Ivy Tech Community College and the Southwest Indiana Small Business Development Center. Catena’s mission is to improve humanity’s quality of life by reducing the cost of goods and services.

Marksberry explains his trajectory: “It all started in the garage. I was trying to tackle the huge issue of food waste in a sustainable manner, so I had an idea to convert it into Bio-Coal. The goal was to keep Indiana’s remaining coal firing power plants alive,” he said. “That idea failed because I came to the realization that I would need 3000+ tons of food waste per day to keep one coal power plant in continuous operation. Turns out there was not enough food waste being wasted each day in Indiana to meet that demand.

“So I scrapped that idea and tried to use the carbon I made for something else.”

Marksberry said. “Turns out that carbon nanomaterials were also made during our bio-coal process.”

Marksberry discovered that these nanomaterials have the potential to solve many of the world’s hardest problems. The only problem was that these materials were normally toxic and super expensive. The materials would cost around $75-300 per gram and because of that they were extensively used in only the automotive and aerospace industries. So he decided to investigate the nanomaterial industry so that they could become more widely accepted and safe for companies to use.

CATENA® FORTIFY™ is a product that can be used as a plastic additive filler that helps increase performance, reduce material usage, and increase the strength of plastics.

The first commercially-ready product will be CATENA® GROW™, Marksberry said. It is an organic nano-fertlizer that will reduce plant cultivation cost, replace the use of conventional fertilizers, and increase plant yield.

Marksberry said Catena’s mission is to improve humanity’s quality of life by reducing the cost of goods and services.

The competition was led by Landon Young, Executive Director of Entrepreneurial Programming at Elevate Ventures. He said the team of judges was looking for accomplished teams targeting national or global markets with innovative business models.

Elevate Ventures hosts three pitch competitions each spring and fall in Northern, Central and Southern Indiana. During the fall 2022 competitions, 46 companies were selected among 88 applicants competing.

Ivy Tech Evansville opened the Garatoni School in Fall 2022 with a full cohort of students. The program offers students practical lessons in business start-up and management through partnerships with Regional Innovation and Startup Education (RISE). Students build ecosystems, create a model canvas, work with mentors, and learn from and network with guest speakers and entrepreneurs. The next cohort will begin in Fall 2023. To learn more about Evansville’s program go to link.ivytech.edu/create; or to express interest in being a mentor to a student email Chase Coslett, department chair, at ccoslett@ivytech.edu.