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"You have a nice smile."

It's not the kind of thing you would probably say to an investor interested in financing your venture. But a group of Utah investors and entrepreneurs gathered in a room Tuesday overlooking the Salt Lake Valley to hear a series of pitches from university technologists in a format that had the same vibe as speed dating.

Each hopeful went from table to table with only 90 seconds to convince investors why they should give them money for their ideas.

"I wish I had a little more time, but it wasn't nerve-racking," said Beth Drees of the University of Utah, who was pitching technology that helps surgeons better determine how much of a cancerous tumor is left in the tissue. "You want to get them interested and hope they come to you afterward. It's very energizing, and it keeps you moving."

For the first time, the University of Utah hosted the "University Innovators Speed Teching Showcase" in an effort to help turn emerging tech ideas into viable companies. Although the event was far more business-like than speed dating, the goal was somewhat the same — to consummate a relationship between researchers who need money and those who have it.

"In 90 seconds, you can tell them what the problem is . . . and what the general marketing opportunity is like. Then they [investors] can come to the table," said Bryan Ritchie, executive director of the University of Utah's Technology Commercialization Office, which put on the event. "It's an opportunity to hear all the technology and then zero in on all the ones they're interested in."

More than 50 investors attended the luncheon event. Sixteen innovators were assembled from the U., Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University to pitch projects. The innovations included a new drug treatment for anemia, holographic imaging for medicine and entertainment, a new system for water treatment, and nanotechnology. There even was a pitch for new software that helps genealogical research. Ritchie said he hopes to host the event twice a year.

Paul W. Wozniak, chairman of the Park City Angel Network, liked the format and was able to hear more pitches in one period than ever before. And he said there were a couple he liked that he would take to his firm's "screening committee" for further review.

"It's fast," he said of the "speed teching" format. "It's important to get your ideas across in a concise fashion. But once we get the gist of what they're saying, we can follow up."

For the second year in a row, the University of Utah was ranked No. 1 in the nation for the number of new startups based on university research, according to an annual survey by the Association of University Technology Managers.

James J. Divver, senior vice president of government relations for Zions Bank, which sponsored the event, said bringing the innovators together with the investors in this format can be a boost for the state's economy.

"We think this is a good way to grow jobs in Utah, which is why we like sponsoring events like this," he said.

Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi