Eight men line up for a photo with the three men in the center holding a large check for $12,000.

Fire Neural Network wins UF AI Days Pitch Competition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Fire Neural Network rose to the top of the business ideas presented at the inaugural UF AI Days Pitch Competition. Fire Neural Network uses AI to quickly and accurately locate lightning-initiated wildfires, reducing detection times from 24 hours to 40 seconds and locating ignition points within 40 meters instead of kilometers.

The company is made up of CEO Dr. Istvan Kereszy, COO Tamas Kereszy, Economics and Marketing Manager Caroline E. Comeau, UF physics professor and CTO Dr. Imre Bartos, as well as wildfire analyst John W. Kern.

“We are very happy to win the inaugural UF AI Days Pitch Competition!” Istvan Kereszy said. “It was amazing to see that such an esteemed group of judges came to the competition, and it feels great that they selected Fire Neural Network (FNN). We would like to live up to the expectations and show how Florida-based AI technology can help in the global fight against wildfires.”

Winning the competition comes with a $12,000 prize. This is the company’s second pitch competition win at the University of Florida. In the spring, they took home the $25,000 first place prize and $5,000 Best Technology Venture at the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center’s Big Idea Competition.

The prize money is critical to Fire Neural Network as they work to reach new markets and seek to help firefighters in the upcoming Southern Hemisphere fire season in Brazil and Australia, Istvan shared.

Presented by the UF Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center in the Warrington College of Business, the UF AI Days Pitch Competition was created to help students launch and grow businesses that leverage artificial intelligence. The AI Days Pitch Competition is just one way that the University of Florida is bringing AI skills to every student across every field of study and empowering them to be leaders in advancing AI technology. 

In addition to Fire Neural Network, which includes alumni of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, three other teams took home prizes at the AI Days Pitch Competition, including:

  • Second place ($8,000): Farmpal; team leader Jasdeep Singh, Ph.D. student from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
  • Third place ($5,000): Talairis; team leader Caroline Beasley (MBA ’22), alumna of the Warrington College of Business
  • Fourth place ($1,000): AI Cicero; team leader Valeria Marcia (MSE ’22), alumna of the Warrington College of Business

“I was impressed by the breadth and diversity of ideas that were submitted and presented at the AI Days Idea Pitch Competition,” said Alex Settles, Clinical Associate Professor and UF AI Days Pitch Competition facilitator. “The final four represented a range of ideas and stages of business development. This was an excellent opportunity for students to further develop their AI-based ideas and to get feedback from professionals in the field.”

As a faculty member at Warrington, Settles had encouraged his students to work on AI-based business models over the past academic year. He’s proud to note that his former students Caroline Beasley and Valeria Marcia seem to have been inspired to do so with their ventures that won third and fourth, respectively, place in the UF AI Days Pitch Competition.

“Both Valeria and Caroline’s pitches were ideas that started in our MBA and MSE programs,” Settles said. “I am very proud that our students have been able to identify opportunities, generate ideas and propose solutions. It is amazing when students can translate their in-class work into real-world solutions.”

The pitch competition judges included Britt Woodall of Vobile and Cheryl Martin, Jonathan Bentz and Kaleb Smith of NVIDIA. Martin was also impressed with the range of great AI-based ideas that students presented at the UF AI Days Pitch Competition.

“What really stood out to me was the diversity of ideas and the diversity of the teams competing,” said Martin, Director of North American Sales for Higher Education at NVIDIA. “The top 4 showcased very different products or services in completely different industries including legal, agriculture, personal skills development and with Fire Neural Network, a service with impact in insurance, federal and state and utilities. Half were business-to-consumer, and half were business-to-business. Creativity, business acumen and technical skills were all well represented by diverse members in each of the teams which clearly demonstrates teamwork.”   

Martin is excited about UF’s investment in AI education and is looking forward to following the progression of the AI Days Pitch Competition teams.

“I was delighted that a Pitch Competition was part of the AI Days,” Martin said. “AI is a tool that is being used in nearly every industry today and according to PitchBook, AI and machine-learning startups raised $155B from VCs in 2021, so seeing UF’s investment in this area is fantastic and it is exciting to see that UF and the Warrington College of Business are preparing students with the skills that will be needed to thrive in this new world.”

For those unable to attend the competition in person, experience the event through UF Warrington’s coverage of the event on Twitter.