Innovation on Display at Business Competition
Dec. 13, 2013
From left: Senior lecturer Dan Boschler joins Team Pad Putty, consisting of Zac Evans and Katherine Huston, which won first place in the undergraduate division.
An electronic blueprint system for the architecture, engineering and construction industry and a silicone pad that protects horse hooves won the top prizes at last month's UT Dallas Business Idea Competition.
The winning graduate and undergraduate teams each received $5,000 for their ideas as part of the annual contest sponsored by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is based in the Naveen Jindal School of Management.
The innovations were among dozens of entries in the competition that gives students the opportunity to develop and present their business ideas for a total of $20,000 in cash and scholarship prizes.
Almost 150 students in 46 teams entered the competition. The teams pitched their products to local CEOs, entrepreneurs, corporate employees and investors from companies including Ericsson, Texas Instruments and Sabre, who served as judges.
Team Thermone – Tantan Liu, Zhaodi Liu, Chen Xia, Cheng Gu and Zhen Xu – won the Ericsson Innovation Award in the graduate division and the Dallas Entrepreneur Network Green Award.
Matthew Hinson, a student in the Jindal School’s new Startup Launch Program, and teammate Alejandro Jacobo, a recent MBA graduate, won the top prize in the graduate division for the second year in a row. This year's idea was a rollable electronic blueprint system.
The teammates said they could not have succeeded without their entrepreneurship professors’ mentoring and rigorous courses. Jacobo said he appreciates how the professors encourage students to figure out their own solutions.
“They say, ‘Here’s how I see it. Think about it and fix it,’” Jacobo said. “They make us think harder.”
The first-place graduate division team won last year’s competition with a “crowd scholarship” business they continue to operate. The social networking approach to college funding also recently helped Hinson win a $10,000 scholarship from the Texas Business Hall of Fame Foundation.
In the undergraduate division, Katherine Huston and Zac Evans won first place for Pad Putty, a product that protects horse hooves.
Team Horizon – Addison Kim, Zac Evans, Kelsey Drake and Michelle Abuda – won the Ericsson Innovation Award in the undergraduate division and the Campus Favorite Video Competition.
Huston, an accounting senior, said the prize money will allow her to move forward with the product.
“As an avid horse person, I have such a passion for this product and its target market, and I now know that others believe in it, too,” she said.
Evans, a finance junior, said he enjoyed serving as Pad Putty’s brand advisor.
“I helped develop the logo and got to work with Katherine on how we could create packaging that would appeal to her target market,” he said.
Two new awards were added to the competition this year. The Dallas Entrepreneur Network sponsored a $1,000 award for environmentally friendly products. The award went to Team Thermone, which created a system that can heat or cool rooms in a house at different temperatures to save electricity by focusing only on rooms in use.
For the first time, the event also included a video competition. Sixteen teams submitted 90-second videos that were posted online and garnered 700 total votes.
Dan Bochsler, the senior lecturer who organized the competition, said competitors receive advising and training to refine their ideas and improve their presentation skills.
“The experience of presenting and receiving comments in front of a diverse group of judges across the D-FW business environment provides an important education experience bridge to their futures,” Bochsler said. "Every year, it is great to see the range of ideas and creativity from every direction.”
John Antos, a consultant and angel investor who has volunteered as a judge for the competition for several years, said the program gives students a great opportunity to apply what they learn in their courses.
“It’s one of the most valuable experiences they can have in college,” Antos said. “It teaches them so much about the business world, and it teaches them a lot about themselves.”
Amy Cockerham, volunteer judge and chief development officer for RiverRock Holdings LLC, said she was impressed with the presentations. She said students made compelling arguments for their products and backed them up with facts.
“Even though it’s called an idea competition, it really is about how well can you present the idea. And, beyond the idea, is it a viable solution to the marketplace?” Cockerham said.
The Eighth Annual UT Dallas Business Idea Competition will be held in November. More information will be available on the IIE website in August.