100K Business Plan Competition sees increase in competitiveness

By Marissa Gallerani

Published: Friday, April 16, 2010

Updated: Monday, April 19, 2010

100k

Jenna Liang / Tufts Daily

Proximity Health Solutions, pictured above, and Masawa were this year’s Tufts 100K Business Plan Competition winners.

The Tufts Sixth Annual 100K Business Plan Competition took place on Wednesday, with two teams each receiving $50,000 prizes after beating out a field of contenders that organizers called the most talented in the competition's history.

The competition, which was sponsored by The Gordon Institute's (TGI) Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, consists of the Classic Business Plan Competition and the Social Entrepreneurship Competition.

In the first category, Proximity Health Solutions, comprised of senior Michael Brown and TGI engineering management students Jeffrey Miller and Bernard Tan, emerged victorious.

Proximity Health Solutions' project focused on the issue of infections developed while in the hospital.

"We want to develop a device that will rapidly detect hospital−acquired infections," Brown said. "Right now, the time is one to two days before you know what the diagnosis is. We want to cut that time down to one to two hours."

The project started through Brown's research on silk through TGI, which he said was enhanced through his participation in the competition.

"This gives me a totally different perspective on why I'm doing this and why these things are important," Brown said. "It was amazing to get the macro perspective doing the business plan and also the micro of doing work in a lab."

In the Social Entrepreneurship Competition, Masawa — made up of students from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Shailesh Chitnis, Darius Hyworon, Joshua Haynes, Marian Levin, Christine Martin and Julie Zollman — came in first with its plan for developing an integrated technology platform to function on smartphones, with a focus on usage in the developing world.

Business plans were judged on the quality of the plan, its feasibility and the team's ability to execute it, according to Pamela Goldberg, director of TGI's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program.

Goldberg said the standard of the competition rises every year.

"This competition does get more competitive each year … Therefore the quality of the finalists just keeps getting better," Goldberg said.

She expressed her satisfaction with this year's competition and competitors.

"This is the best competition we've ever had," Goldberg said. "It ran more smoothly than I could have ever anticipated, and it all went very well. I'm really impressed with every single team. There were fabulous ideas, and the quality of the presentations really exceeded expectations."

Carla Eberle, assistant director of communications and admissions for TGI, emphasized that this competition reached across different constituencies in the university.

"This competition is one of the rare instances when all of the members of the Tufts community are able to come together," Eberle said. "The diversity in the teams is huge, with groups from The Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy, from the School of Engineering, from the Gordon Institute and from … undergraduates."

Goldberg explained that interested participants at the end of January submitted their business plans, and from that group of applications, five finalists were selected for each category. There were no restrictions on the number of members in each team.

"After the finalists were chosen, they were assigned a mentor, some of which were alumni, to help work with them during the subsequent couple of months to add to their preparations," Goldberg said. "Each team also had a one−day coaching session from a team of experts to help them understand the expectations for the competition and what the day would be like."

The judging of the 10 finalists took place between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesday, with each group giving a 15 to 20 minute presentation to the panel of judges. The judging was followed by an awards ceremony and a reception.

Eight companies sponsored the competition, including Vertrue, Sherbrooke Capital, Lowenstein Sandler, Cummings Properties, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), Skadden, Deloitte and The Capitol Network. The panel of eight judges was drawn from these sponsoring companies.

Teams Dermpedia and FindJoey were cited as honorable mentions in the Classic Business Plan category, with groups Ditch the Dorm and KoffeeLINK taking third place and second place, respectively.

In the Social Entrepre−neurship Competition category, groups R3 and The Green Power Gym were listed as honorable mentions, with 31favors.com and Citizen Water being awarded third and second place, respectively.

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Katherine Sawyer and Ellen Kan contributed reporting to this article.

This article originally incorrectly stated that Jeffrey Miller and Bernard Tan are junior undergraduate students, as opposed to engineering management students at The Gordon Institute. This mistake was corrected on April 19, 2010.

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