Friday, October 31, 2008

Darden Business Concept Competition

I just got to the Business Concept Competition, and walked into the second-half of a presentation on a ride-sharing service. Darden students are finding business opportunities by considering sustainability issues. I love it.

This team has their act together—they’re talking about how their internet-based ride-sharing service will give companies flexibility in arranging transportation for their employees and offer employees a way to reduce their environmental footprint. They claim that DC-area employers currently pay ~$60 in transportation subsidy for each employee, and that their service would help companies save money. If this catches on, it could be hot. Great idea, guys!

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Peace. An unmanned aerial vehicle collects data, delivers ‘packages’, and navigates autonomously . Usually I guess the ‘package’ detonates, but these guys want to build a company that employs UAVs in civilian activities as a communication hub.

UAV for Peace plan to buy, adapt and lease UAV’s for use in search-and-rescue, disaster recovery and search for survivors. These guys are thinking about of the box – they’re not just talking about planes but about using blimps as mobile communication platform that could host cellular networks, radio antenna.

It may be uphill getting this past the Federal Aviation Regulation, capturing a sustainable competitive advantage, covering that high capital cost. But no one’s doing it. The judges offered some useful encouragement and suggested that the team select one or two mission categories, and work the sensor issue and the deployment issue to better communicate the opportunity.

Clean India introduces their team, which is strong, two MBAs and a Prof. and researcher at Oregon State University in water treatment. The product: low cost waste water treatment using ponds and photo bioreactor to treat water used by industry. Dirty water goes in, is cleaned by algae, and is filtered out as industrial-use water and dry algae. The revenues come from both these outputs--the algae can be used for bio-fuels, animal feed, fertilizer; and the water can be sold back to industry.

Clean India are focusing on the textile industry (4% GDP of India), which requires a lot of water (1 MM liters daily) and is currently shipping it from great distances. My classmate Ravi runs through some solid-looking financials and opens up for questions. The judges are concerned about barriers to entry—but it sounds like this team has an edge both with the algae technology and with their photo-bioreactor/algae hybrid model. Good job, Ravi and Baij!!

Life Flow is a technology that support the left ventricle for the treatment of congestive heart failure . Another super strong team--the presenter is an MD/MBA candidate and he’s working with UVA engineers, doctors and people who want to apply this new technology in patients.

Life Flow runs through some of the existing technology – if one of the main alternatives is a heart transplant (scarce supply, pre and post transplant issues, higher incidence of mortality 5 years out), we (me, you and our baby boomers parents) need more options! Life flow may be an industry first. Its strongest points are that its sensor network and magnetic technology allow identification of thrombosis and its location without messing with the flow of blood. The judges and audience have a lot of questions about IP, the device, and the process that they are using to test this device (in vitro/in vivo). I think that short of winning the prize-money, the feedback from the judges here is the most valuable thing for these teams that typically seek to compete in future competitions.

I could listen to these young, motivated, extremely bright entrepreneurs for hours, but have got to take off. After all, it is a reading-day (read: day-off), Halloween, and I’ve got an octopus costume to finish putting together (photos may follow).

I didn't mention all the entrepreneurs by name and didn't cover all of the event, so for completeness here's a list of all the Business Concept competition finalists. Congrats to everyone who made it and got a chance to present today!

Consumer Goods, Services & General Category:
Clear Money – Kevin Royer (D ’10)
Jay’s Karaoke Lounge and Suites – Jacqueline Grace (D’ 10),
Melvin Pope
Ride Flow – Alexander San Andres (D ’10), Joanne Gotianun (D ’10), Mark Taylor (D ’10)
TeleMed Africa – Scott Emami (D ’09), Keith Florance (D ’09), Manoj Sinha (D ’09), Henri Van Canneyt (Darden Exchange Student)

Life Sciences & Hi-Tech Category:
UAVs for Peace – Thanh Dinh (D ’10)
LifeFlow – Amir Allak (D ’10), Alex Bailey, David Chen (D ’06)
Clean India – Ravi Yekula (D ’09), Baijnath Ramraika (D ’09)
Ganti MurthyBlade Energetics – Scott Kasen, Michael Iger, Adam Malcom


Vika said...

Thanks for coming out today! This is really great coverage!

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