A promising cure for ovarian cancer seeking funding to begin clinical trials; a person-to-person car-sharing program that could reduce carbon emissions; a device to enable power-generation facilities to save billions of dollars annually—these were the winning ventures in the seventh-annual McGinnis Venture Competition held March 11-13, 2010 and hosted by the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.
Twenty-six teams from MBA schools across North America as well as from India, Columbia, Canada and the United Kingdom brought their visions of real start-up companies to this three-day competition, founded seven years ago through a generous gift from Gerald McGinnis, a successful entrepreneur and founder of Respironics, Inc. Further funding for the competition was provided by a distinguished group of firms and entrepreneurs including WilmerHale LLP, Sarosh Kumana (Tepper MSIA, 1977), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Morgan Lewis, Medrad Inc., and others. Winners received generous cash prizes as well as legal support to protect patents and other intellectual property.
Dr. Arthur Boni, Director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School and event-organizer, notes that an important challenge faced by any new venture is raising capital. “Prize money from the McGinnis Venture Competition provides very early-stage capital that helps companies become a reality. This competition is also a reality check for participants as they work to refine their business plans.”
The teams of entrepreneurs made fifteen minute presentations before the judges, all entrepreneurs or venture capitalists themselves. Some teams also participated in the “elevator pitch” portion of the competition, in which they had only two minutes to make their proposals.
Grand Prize Winner of the CleanTech track was Carnegie Mellon University’s TransportCHAIN, a venture formed between Craig Gates (Tepper MSIA 2010), Jay Sizemore (Tepper MSIA 2010) and Professor Robert Hampshire of CMU’s Heinz School of Public Policy.
“There are over 237 million private vehicles owned and operated in the United States today, many of which sit idle much of the time,” said Gates. “We tackled the problem of why there are so few car-sharing services in smaller cities or neighborhoods. TransportCHAIN’s analytics will enable people who leave their cars idle for most of the day a way to recapture some of their investment—to become mini-entrepreneurs themselves. We can make car-sharing a cost-effective, environmentally-friendly alternative to vehicle ownership.”
Sponsored by the University of Louisville, NanoMark Therapeutics, Grand Prize Winner of the Life Science track, is bringing to market a revolutionary product for ovarian cancer therapy, a cancer with a staggering, 70% mortality rate. The product, AUra, utilizes gold nano-particles as a vehicle to deliver cancer medication only to cancer cells, while minimizing or eliminating negative side effects to healthy, normal cells. Distinguished cancer scientist, Dr. Sham Kakar, who serves as NanoMark’s president and chief science officer, notes that animal trials have been highly successful, and the company is poised to begin clinical trials. “AUra reduces side effects, reduces dosage requirements, and improves both the outcome and the quality of life,” said Dr. Kakar.
Grand Prize Winner of the Technology Track was the University of Arkansas’ InnerVision, whose Smart Turbine BladeTM will enable power-generation facilities to radically change their turbine maintenance programs, savings billions of dollars each year. InnerVision’s technology captures real-time diagnostic information from the inside of the turbine and transmits data wirelessly to the outside.
Winner of the Elevator Pitch was Drive Safe, sponsored by Kennesaw State University. Addressing the problem of many diabetics who fear falling into a hypoglycemic coma while, Drive Safe’s technology offers diabetics a needle-free, continuous, non-invasive method to monitor glucose levels.
Placing second were:
Enertia (University of Michigan; Technology Track): a breakthrough, energy-scavenging product that supplies life-cycle power to wireless sensors while providing customers with a seamless transition from existing solutions.
Degree Energy Services (University of Maryland; CleanTech Track): technology to aggregate commercial facilities and manage their heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration energy consumption to provide valuable reliability services to the electric grid.
GlucaGO LLC (Purdue University in conjunction with Indiana University; Life Science Track): a revolutionary drug delivery device for the rapid treatment of severe hypoglycemia and other conditions which require reconstitution of lyophilized drugs from a solid to a liquid for injection.
Also a finalist was SeamlessReceipts (Cornell University; Technology Track): a technology that enables brick and mortar retailers to use email receipts as a new marketing platform.
“Carnegie Mellon’s MBA program focuses on analytical decision-making, technology and cross-disciplinary collaboration,” said Kenneth B. Dunn, Dean, David A. Tepper School of Business. “It is this combination that makes Carnegie Mellon the perfect host of the McGinnis Venture Competition.”