Green algae.

(Photo: Courtesy of Ernst Haeckel)
Scott Fulbright says he got the idea to use algae as ink when he was out shopping for a birthday card for his grandmother.

"My grandma is 90 and loves a good greeting card," Fulbright says.

After driving around Fort Collins looking for a card, Fulbright got an idea. He'd been working in a lab at Colorado State University that is developing fuels using algae and thought: Why not use algae for something a lot simpler, and a lot more fun.

Less than a year later, Fulbright and his colleague Stevan Albers are trying to make the idea into a company. They've put a provisional patent on their concept, established the company name Living Ink Technologies and they're pitching it to funders this Friday as part of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Collegiate Challenge competing against teams from schools across Colorado.

The first product Fulbright and Albers are trying to get to market is the algae greeting card. It doesn't look much like a traditional greeting card but it can do a lot more.

(Photo: Courtesy of Scott Fulbright/Living Ink Technologies)
Fulbright says it can reveal different messages over several days. On the first day, it might have a "happy birthday" message and a couple days later it could show a picture of a birthday cake.

Down the road, the biologists and businessmen hope to use the technology to develop educational toys for kids. Albers is a former teacher.

Fulbright says their products will expand and improve since they recently figured out how to make different colors by using different organisms. Now they have black and red in their arsenal, in addition to green.

If Living Ink wins the Blue Ocean challenge on Friday, the entrepreneurs will bring in a different kind of green.  The winner gets $20,000 -- plus a year of mentoring -- to bring its idea to market.