The Mercer Innovation Center (MIC) has selected its inaugural class of Mercer Innovation Fellows, who this fall will begin the process of launching two new businesses with startup funds, housing, office space and access to University facilities and other resources provided by the Center.

HeadNoise is a headband that allows only the wearer to listen to music through bone conduction – the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull. The product is developed by Micah Givens and Marcos Zacarias, both recent Mercer graduates.

Givens earned his bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with a minor in business, while Zacarias earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering. Together, over the past year, they won the Mercer Innovation Center’s Next Big Idea business pitch competition, were named the top senior design project at the School of Engineering’s annual Engineering Expo and were semifinalists at the Techstars Global Startup Battle.

“We at HeadNoise are excited to continue developing our project into a viable business,” said Givens. “We are extremely thankful for the support and education Mercer has provided us.”

KUDU Safari Braai is a wood-burning grill, griddle and fire pit with interchangeable attachments allowing the user to cook multiple items simultaneously. The product is developed by Stebin Horne, a Macon native and graduate of the University of Georgia and Mercer.

Horne earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from UGA and his Juris Doctor from Mercer’s Walter F. George School of Law. He has experience in the healthcare and legal industries and has served the local community in several capacities, including as a Macon City Council member and a board member for the Macon Water Authority.

“It is a great honor to be named as a fellow at the Mercer Innovation Center. As a graduate of Mercer, I understand the rich heritage and close-knit community that the University represents,” said Horne. “My company, KUDU Safari Braai, is much more than a grill company. We are a lifestyle company bringing families and friends together around wonderful food and warm fires. The Mercer Innovation Center is the perfect partner to help make KUDU successful.”

As Mercer Innovation Fellows, these two startups will each receive a prize package that includes $20,000 in funds, housing and parking on Mercer’s campus, office space and MIC membership for a year, paid student interns, access to Mercer facilities, access to local investors, and coaching and mentoring by the MIC’s advisory board.

“Who could ask for a better group of entrepreneurs to launch a legacy? (Mercer) President (William D.) Underwood compels us to inspire a culture of innovation at Mercer and in Macon,” said Dr. Samantha Lankford, director of the Mercer Innovation Center. “Micah Givens and Marcos Zacharias embody that vision. Many people fear education today manifests itself into little more than smoke and mirrors. Yet, Micah and Marcos demonstrate how education should work: developing faculty-led student projects into business ideas to change the world for the better. Their company, HeadNoise, is not just another computer application, but a product that will save lives. Their ear-free headphones will enable us to listen to music and stay safe on the streets of our busy world.

“Our other entrepreneur, Stebin Horne, stands as testament to the high caliber of our own homegrown talent in Macon. His business savvy draws upon many of the underutilized economic incentives in Georgia. His grill innovation, inspired by grill designs in South Africa, bridges international cultural divides. The KUDU promises to enrich our lives, giving us new opportunities to come together to eat, to talk, and reconnect as humans over a campfire and a homemade meal,” added Dr. Riley.

The annual Mercer Innovation Fellowships are open to entrepreneurs, 21 and older, from across the world, in addition to current Mercer students. Applications for next year’s fellowships are available at mic.mercer.edu/fellows.

For more information on the Mercer Innovation Fellows program, contact Dr. Lankford at lankford_sm@mercer.edu.