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U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup Will Award $40,000 to Best Student Business Plans

November 15, 2010 — University of Virginia student entrepreneurs will be making their best business pitches on Friday, vying for a $20,000 first prize in the second annual U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup.

Preliminary school-by-school competitions held between Nov. 6 and 11 whittled down 181 business plans – created by more than 300 students from eight of U.Va.'s 11 schools – to seven finalist teams.

Their business concepts range from selling compact refrigerators on college campuses to green home renovation services, to software that helps early detection of illnesses, to a hand-held retina camera to screen for diabetes-related eye disease. (The last two concepts aim to commercialize technology developed at U.Va.)

The event, open to the public, will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. in Monroe Hall, room 130.
"The U.Va. Cup competition is helping make U.Va. a global destination for entrepreneurial talent, and enhances our mission of disseminating knowledge to the world," Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research, said.

Philippe Sommer, director of entrepreneurship programs at U.Va.'s Darden School of Business, said it's important to involve disciplines from across the University.

"Entrepreneurship is a mindset anyone can adopt, no matter what their field of study," he said. "It's about changing the world, which makes it the province of artists, educators, engineers and business people."

The U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup is a participating event of Global Entrepreneurship Week, which runs Nov. 15 to 21, involving 10 million people in 100 countries.

Undergraduate and graduate students will make 10-minute pitches, followed by 10 minutes of questions from a panel of judges, who will weigh both the business case and the energy, imagination and passion of the presenters.

The winning project will receive a $20,000 cash prize, with $10,000 for second place.  Two honorable mention teams will each take home $5,000.

Members of the winning team's names and details will be engraved on a U.Va. Cup medallion made of light plastic polymer that encases a coin-shaped magnet. A copy of the medallion will take its place in the U.Va. Cup trophy, where it magnetically levitates within a spiraling band of bronze engraved with a quote from U.Va. founder Thomas Jefferson: "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

The U.Va. Office of the Vice President for Research and the Darden School sponsor the competition, with generous support from Third Security LLC, a venture capital firm specializing in biotechnology and life sciences, and Hearst Business Media, a division of the Hearst media empire focused on business-to-business information services and trade publications.

"We are extremely pleased to have these world-class partners," Skalak said.

"Third Security is pleased to underwrite the U.Va. Cup for a second year," said Rob Patzig, the company's chief investment officer. "As a venture firm our mission is to find entrepreneurs, invest in their ideas and build companies around them. We think that one of the most important things a university can do is to encourage and nourish a culture of entrepreneurialism among its faculty, staff and students." 

Rich Malloch, chief executive officer of Hearst Business Media, said that unlocking research, creativity and talent at leading universities like U.Va. is critical for American competitiveness.

"The U.Va. Cup is part of U.Va.'s increasing efforts to foster intellectual property and enhance the commercialization process by involving both of U.Va.'s business schools, the venture capital community and corporations like us that are embracing innovation," he said.

The seven finalist teams competing on Nov. 19, chosen in preliminary school-by-school competitions are:

College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences:
     • Fridges Unlimited, a plan to sell and deliver new and used compact refrigerators to college students. (Tony Weaver, College)

Curry School of Education:
     • The Treasure Hunt, a free, online, interactive lottery game wherein players collectively "dig" for cash and other prizes hidden behind certain pixels on a map image. The prizes are paid for by sales of targeted advertising. (Whit Hunter, College; Nitya Reddy, Curry; Jack Aspinwall and Caroline Darby, McIntire School of Commerce.)

Darden School of Business:
     • Pix By Post, "your photos mailed to your friends and family for free." Software connected to Facebook, Flickr, SmugMug and other photo-sharing sites that streamlines getting a physical print of the digital photos you're already sharing with friends. The prints are free, paid for by selecting a coupon for your friend that comes printed on the back of the photo. (Brianne Warner, Darden)

School of Engineering and Applied Science:
     • Medical Informatics Predictive Monitoring Platform, software that uses algorithms developed at the U.Va. Medical Center to analyze real-time data from hospitalized patients (blood pressure, pulse, etc.) for early detection of illness. (Emma Fauss, Engineering School Ph.D. student; Craig Rusin, Engineering School graduate and assistant research professor in the School of Medicine's Cardiology Department)

School of Law:
     • GreenHome Retro, Inc., an energy efficiency and green renovation coordinator that provides one-stop guidance on financing options, available government subsidies, recommended contractors, retrofitting strategies and projected cost savings. (Steven Ryan and Donald Shum, Law)

McIntire School of Commerce:
     • Bars Dude, a service that provides college students with text message coupons for nearby bars and restaurants. (Stephanie Deichman, Aaron Kur, Bill Igou and TJ Wootton, McIntire; Eric Trouton, Engineering )

School of Medicine and School of Nursing:
     • IRIS (Innovative Retinal Imaging Systems), bringing to market the patent-pending CavCam being developed in U.Va.'s Ophthalmology Research Lab — a low-cost, hand-held retina camera built on consumer camera technology, enabling primary care physicians to screen for diabetes-related eye disease. (Ken Tran, Engineering School; Dr. Paul Yates, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Medicine)

— By Brevy Cannon

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