Bomb Detector, Game System Win Business Awards
Organizers Say Student Ideas Rival Professional Venture Plans in Sophistication
A scanning device to detect car bombs and a system for hosting online video-game contests took top honors at this year’s UT Dallas Business Idea Competition.
The third annual competition, sponsored by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas, drew entries from 45 graduate and undergraduate teams, who vied for $30,000 in scholarships and cash prizes.
“We were pleased by the level of participation and the quality of the ideas in this year’s competition,” IIE competition director and School of Management faculty member Daniel Bochsler observed. “The 114 students in the competition included representatives from every school at UT Dallas.”
MBA students Adam Rivon and Swapnil Bora took home the top prize in the graduate division for MS3-Modern Security, an electronic surveillance system to scan the underside of vehicles to detect bombs. Continuing concerns about terrorism create a need for the product, Bora and Rivon said. The pair won $6,500 for placing first and $500 more for making the best idea presentation. The team can use the money to help turn the idea into an actual business venture. “We’ll need to raise about $360,000 to get started,” Rivon said.
ReadyUp, an environment to host and regulate online console-game competitions, took the $6,500 top prize in the undergraduate competition. The team included junior Nathan Bachus and senior Jinson Jose from the School of Management and sophomore Travis Dirr from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science. The team, which began beta testing of the concept in March, said the system would eliminate problems encountered by video gamers and offer sponsorship opportunities for businesses. “We will use the prize money to upgrade and expand the current system,” Bachus said.
The top place in each division also included a $1,000 allowance to be used in connection with travel to intercollegiate business plan competitions.
Past winners of the UT Dallas competition have competed successfully in intercollegiate competitions across the country. Several have started businesses based on the ideas they presented in the competition, said IIE Executive Director Joseph C. Picken. “There are a number of really good ideas here,” he said. “We will continue to work with the top teams to refine and develop their ideas. It’s gratifying to see the entrepreneurial ability of our UT Dallas students.”
Returning judge Jim Lafferty of Genesis Biosystems, Inc. said graduate-level teams this year showed “a higher level of sophistication, with higher quality and more consistent presentations,” which made judging very challenging. “I’ve looked at investor pitches, and some of them are not even close to this level of quality,” said Lafferty, an adviser to the institute. “These are compelling ideas.”
“There is an energy about the competition,” said another returning judge and institute adviser, Scott Ticer of angel investor association Lone Star Angels. “These are folks who are not just talking about entrepreneurship, but they are actually being entrepreneurs.”
The contest was held during Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 16-22), a worldwide observance designed to encourage young people to bring creativity and imagination to business endeavors.
From left: Joel Fontenot, IIE supporter and managing partner of Trailblazer Capital; winning graduate team members Swapnil Bora and Adam Rivon; Joseph C. Picken, executive director of the IIE; and Dan Bochsler, a School of Management faculty member.
|Undergrad winners (from left) Nathan Bachus, Jinson Jose and Travis Dirr proposed ReadyUp, a system for online game competitions.|
Other graduate division winners:
- First runner-up honors and $4,000 went to the Innovators team, made up of School of Management graduate students V. Giri Srinivasan and Vidhya Rohini Raman, and Harini Sridharan, a doctoral student in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. Their idea used the global positioning and voice-recognition applications available for smart phones to help visually impaired people successfully navigate city streets and use public transportation.
- Second runner-up and $2,000 went to team Charity League, made up of MBA student Travis Sanderfer and 2008 MBA graduate Sam Acosta, who crafted a way for fantasy sports league players to pursue that hobby while supporting their favorite charity with an ongoing revenue stream for the charity.
- Third runner-up ($1,000) was team Solanics, made up of MBA students Melinda McCall and Miaoxin (Alfred) Zhou, who integrated consumer electronics with new organic semiconductor technology in a proximity sensor device to increase vehicle safety for drivers who have problems with depth perception.
Other undergraduate division winners:
- Besides taking top undergraduate honors with ReadyUp, Nathan Bachus, Jinson Jose and Travis Dirr combined to earn first runner-up honors—and $4,000 in prize money—as the Play Anywhere team, which offered video-game players a way to use broadband connections to remotely access their own home game consoles and the consoles of other gamers.
- The second runner-up title and $2,000 went to the Danon Group, a team comprised of School of Management juniors Daniel Kao and Heng Phou. Their idea was to establish a “rent-a-flower” agency to help customers trim event costs and waste by renting real flowers that have been preserved.
- Third runner-up was team Bella, made up of Yingda Bi, a senior in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, and Mashrur Rahman, a senior in the School of Management. They earned $1,000 for Conversation Partners in English, an idea making use of online video and voice chat technology to connect students in China who are eager to learn to speak English with paid conversation partners in the United States. The team also took best presentation ($500) honors.