Thursday April 8, 2010

Winning Entrepreneurs

A bright idea that blends global positioning technology with advertising won the University of Dayton's 2010 Business Plan Competition

A young company that blends global positioning technology with public transportation to create customized advertising opportunities took home first prize in the 2010 University of Dayton Business Plan Competition.

Commuter Advertising creates audio advertising for public transit vehicles keyed to specific locations through GPS technology and shares ad revenue with transit systems. The company launched the concept with the Miami Valley RTA and is expanding to additional cities. Russell Gottesman, Katie Hill with three University of Dayton student interns — Michael Benash, Bryan Cox and Thomas Rose — are team members for the company. Dan Graham, former president and CEO of the Berry Company, served as mentor.

"The winning company not only had a great idea with a lot of attractiveness to potential investors, but the execution of the business plan was very well done and complete," said Dean McFarlin, chair of the University's management and marketing department. "Their plan demonstrated the soundness of the idea as well as the opportunities and showed that they have the ability to execute the plan in a way that will pay returns to an investor."

Business plans from five finalist teams were judged on whether they were feasible, profitable and outlined an innovative product worthy of going to market. Other winners announced at the School of Business Administration's annual Entrepreneurship Banquet were:

Second place ($10,000) BrainRack — an open online platform that allows students and young professionals to compete in challenges posed by companies seeking innovative solutions to their needs. The company utilizes "crowdsourcing," a social networking approach. Winning team members included Matthew Veryser, Senay Semere, Pepijn de Visscher and mentor Keith Daniel, management consultant.

Third place ($5,000) Babble Basics — a customizable educational tool for children with developmental disabilities such as Down's syndrome. The product uses family photos to help children acquire language skills and connect parents to an online social network. Jenay Sherman was assisted by mentor Beverly Smith, owner of Hollandays Publishing Corp. Engineering students from the University's Innovation Center also assisted.

Fourth place ($3,000) PC Power Management Solutions — analyzes power usage for networked individual or group computer users and allows an organization to manage the usage to realize energy savings. The team included: Eric Hilton and Jon Rike and was mentored by Greg Popham, channel account manager for Avaya Communications Co.

Fifth place ($3,000) Comfort Care Bra — a bra designed by a cancer survivor to alleviate pain and discomfort after treatment. The bra protects sensitive skin while allowing air to circulate and speed healing. Team members Peggy Rohr, Nathan David, Jenna Hagemann and C.J. Jackson were mentored by Mike Emoff, CEO of Shumsky Enterprises, and assisted by Innovation Center engineering students.

McFarlin said there is a rapidly growing interest in the competition, which increased from 57 to 82 entries this year, as well as increasing sophistication of the entries.

"People in the community know that the competition offers a very valuable and potentially lucrative crash course in entrepreneurship," McFarlin said. "Our prize package has been growing over the years, and we provide all sorts of help to move a business plan forward. If your idea needs business validation, we can provide that kind of help; if it needs technical validation, our partnership with the School of Engineering's Innovation Center can provide that."

Jay Janney, competition coordinator and Berry Faculty fellow in entrepreneurship, said as it grows, the competition is an increasingly valuable asset for the University and the community.

"Everybody wins with this competition. It's great for the entrepreneurship program, because it helps us stay in the upper echelon of programs nationally. It's great for students all over campus because they are exposed to entrepreneurship," he said. "And it's good for the Dayton community because we can help people here who have great ideas. Most new jobs are created by small companies and start-ups. Over time, that can help the Dayton community add new jobs and new businesses to the economy. "

The University of Dayton's School of Business Administration launched the annual competition in 2006 to help teach entrepreneurship and give students an advantage in the job market, Janney said. The competition is open to any University of Dayton student or graduate. Outside entrepreneurs may also enter; if they become finalists, they must add University of Dayton students or graduates to their teams.

Total prize money this year grew to $50,000, and the competition drew more than 170 participants.

The University of Dayton is nationally recognized for its hands-on approach to developing student entrepreneurs. In 2009, the entrepreneurship program was ranked in the top 10 in the nation for the fourth straight year by The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

Dean McFarlin at 937-229-4928 or mcfarlin@udayton.edu