For our Startup Spotlights, Times of Entrepreneurship scouted startups that spun out of top university competitions and programs. The impact of such awards can be many years in the making, especially in the DeepTech space.

Startup: CrowdIq

True audience engagement analytics.

Wise, Virginia

Interviewee: Founder Hunter Hess, who was the first person in the history of UVA-Wise to represent the school at the American Evolution Innovator’s Cup. He taught himself the code powering his startup.

G2K Game Innovation Competition at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

Hess won the competition in 2019. Additionally, the company was a semifinalist in the American Evolution Innovator’s Cup at the Tom Tom Festival in 2019. 

What is your elevator pitch?

CrowdIQ creates solutions that assist companies in determining the effectiveness of their advertisements by providing digital analytics for traditional advertising. Initially, CrowdIQ developed a device that utilized facial recognition technology to track the number of views that a physical advertisement, such as a sign or banner, would receive and provide detailed analytics to stakeholders. Since the concept phase, the company has expanded to develop solutions to provide engagement metrics for other marketing pieces as well, such as business cards, mailers, and flyers.

What should we know about you?

I have been involved in startups and business consulting for a number of years, and those experiences have shaped me to become a more effective founder. I started my first business, Hunter Hess Promotions, while I was in the eighth grade, and operated the company as a business promotion firm that created websites and marketing materials for small businesses in my area. This was the inspiration for CrowdIQ, as I believed that businesses and marketing agencies could benefit by receiving digital analytics from traditional advertisements.

What are you looking for?

Currently, CrowdIQ is a single-person startup that is pre-revenue and pre-investment, with the exception of some competition funding. While the business is currently in the development stage, the most helpful resources would be connections in the areas of intellectual property/patent research, connections to those with expertise in the marketing industry, and potential involvement with startup accelerators to help grow the business.

Why should someone invest in you?

I believe that CrowdIQ presents a great business opportunity, as the company seeks to transform the marketing research industry by providing digital analytics from traditional advertising. While there have been a number of adversities faced since the company’s founding, I have used the resources and connections available thus far to continue building the company and pivot the business strategy when necessary.

Clear evidence of success you would like to share? 

Since the concept stage, the company has been approached by many potential clients and investors who have been interested in the opportunity to do business with the company. The level of interest has represented validation of the concept, thus leading the company to proceed with product development.

What has surprised you the most after winning/ about starting this?

The most surprising element of starting the business has definitely been the high level of interest and connections received from those who have heard the elevator pitch. From the start, there have been a number of individuals interested in providing advice and mentoring to assist the business in moving forward, and this has been a very humbling experience for me personally. From university resources to business owners in the region, a number of individuals have reached out to connect, and I hope that this enables the business to grow strongly and responsibly over the next phase of the startup.

More info on the G2K Game Innovation Competition at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise

Specialty: Across categories 

Prize: $10,000 

To reach Hunter Hess, email: If you have a Startup Spotlight to suggest, please contact Shirly Piperno,

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