Elias Ruiz of Hughson made the finals of the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge with his idea for a lightweight raft.
The fourth and final regional round took place Wednesday night at the Turlock Chamber of Commerce. Ruiz was chosen by an expert panel and audience voting to advance to the Dec.10 finals in Modesto.
The first-ever contest seeks business ideas from people who live in Stanislaus County, or own companies or attend college here. The winner will get $2,500 in cash and the equivalent value in legal, marketing and accounting services.
Fred Axton won the first regional in Modesto in September with a disabled-access shower. Joel Gutierrez Campos won the Oakdale round with a mobile app that allows residents to offer ideas to Realtors and developers on filling vacant properties. Luke Rocha topped the Patterson regional with products that could be used in airsoft tactical war games.
The organizers chose five to seven applicants for each regional; they did not need to live in that part of the county. Each event started with two-minute pitches, followed by 10-minute Q&A sessions for the three finalists.
The other finalists Wednesday were Maxine Yokosuka of Modesto, with her idea for a gourmet ramen soup restaurant, and Jacob Mullens of Waterford, with a device that cleans ducts on automobiles.
The judges were Martha Conner, founder of the DirectLine Technologies fundraising company; James Brenda, founder of JKB Living, JKB Energy and several other local companies; and John Paoluccio, an engineer in Modesto.
The Stanislaus Business Alliance is putting on the contest, co-sponsored by Wells Fargo, The Modesto Bee and the Stanislaus/Merced Angels investment group. The winner will be entered in the 2015 version of the San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge, an eight-county event based in Stockton.
The finals of the Stanislaus Innovation Challenge will be at 6p.m. Dec.10 at the Kirk Lindsey Center, 1020 10th St., Suite 102, Modesto. More information is at www.alliancesbdc.com.