AirFit Competes at Cardinal Challenge @ U. of Louisville

cardinal challenge

After leaving Eugene on a 5:28 am flight, we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky, ready to pitch our company, AirFit, to the judges and audience at the Cardinal Challenge Business Plan Competition.  We knew we were up for a challenge as most teams competing were involved in life-sciences, and the judges would have to completely shift their mindset for our presentation. Unlike our fellow teams with their latest-and-greatest diabetes monitor or a new surgical instrument, our product is simple to understand.  AirFit is revamping the dreaded layover experience by placing gym and shower facilities into airport terminals, located behind security.  While most teams spent a significant amount of the presentation explaining how their product was better than the alternatives, our feat was to explain all the financial costs associated with our endeavor and why we were the best team to bring this vision to reality.


Friday evening began with a social reception and introduction.  During our candid and brief self-intro to all the other groups and advisors, AirFit was immediately well-received, garnering applause and supportive cheers upon the initial announcement of what we were trying to accomplish.  Clearly AirFit’s value proposition was meeting the needs of many people in the crowd.  Funneling this supportive energy, we took to the stage bright and early the next morning, unveiling AirFit to the world outside Oregon for its maiden flight.  15 minutes of uninterrupted presentation, followed by another 15 of Q&A, we delivered a solid performance.


The only team at the competition with just two founders, a completely different business model than any other company present, and having nothing to do with the deep fried chicken style concepts normally seen at this Kentucky competition, AirFit had the cards stacked against us.  These uphill battles became apparent when we discovered we unfortunately did not make it onto the final round.  Major challenges revolved around convincing judges to remain objective and not ask whether they, in fact, would use the product, but what the voice of the customer at large was telling us.  According to our market research ( of over 200 respondents, polled mainly in airport or gym environments, more than 85% indicated an interest for AirFit’s services, and at even what price-point they would be willing to pay.  Unfortunately these key data points fell on deaf ears and are an area of improvement in the presentation we plan on addressing in our next competition this spring.

While disappointed we did not win the competition, all of AirFit’s founders and team enjoyed the experience for what it was – a tremendous learning opportunity and one of the many rite-of-passages most new ventures must undergo. Our concept had open validation among individuals in the crowd, and even from competing teams.  The ability to compete in such an environment is a fantastic opportunity in and of itself.  Each team present in Louisville clearly contributed their own blood, sweat, and tears over the last few months to get to this point, only raising the overall caliber of the entire performance.  The final outcome of the situation is that all AirFit members are ready to tackle the next presentation, next investor meeting, and next step involved in taking our company forward on the path to success.  Namely, we are looking for one more individual with prior gym management experience to join the team in an operations role, and the next few months before graduation will be dedicated to this task.


Written by Ty

After graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in applied mathematics, I worked in the non-profit world as a group facilitator and program manager for experiential education programs. During my time working for private and public organizations, we well as small and mammoth universities, I simultaneously acquired startup experience as I founded sub and side project departments under the greater umbrella of my larger employer. I am currently a 2nd year MBA student at the U. of Oregon and have full intentions on remaining with my startup company, AirFit, post graduation