We've all seen them: those annoying distorted-text images on websites like Ticketmaster that require you to type what you see in order to proceed. They're designed to thwart scammers and spammers, but they don't always work. That's what Tyler Paxton, CEO of Are You a Human?, discovered when a co-worker nearly failed to score his kids Hannah Montana tickets (scalpers had found a way around the authentication tool and bought them up). So, in 2009, Paxton started his MBA program intending to create a better solution. He first approached classmate Reid Tatoris, another tech-inclined Michigan native, with his idea, and Tatoris proposed they set up the business in Detroit. Next they signed on three more classmates with complementary skills.
The team is raising a $1 million investment and will soon have a product ready for beta testing. It's a suite of quick online games (like putting shapes into boxes) that can be easily embedded on websites. They claim it's more secure, more user-friendly, and even makes money through advertising, all of which makes them an attractive web partner.
Judge's comment: "As other companies catch on, their success could be short-lived, but this has real potential as long as they keep innovating."
NEXT: Third place: PK Clean