The sixth annual Jungle Business Plan Challenge sponsored in part by Jungle Media Group, publisher of award-winning Jungle magazine and Fenwick & West LLP, the leading law firm for venture funding and technology start-ups awarded first place to SunPhocus Technologies from Chicago GSB. The company which was formed in September of 2005 to commercialize an innovative solar concentrator that reduces the cost of building- integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) triumphed in a grueling one-day pitch-off.
Ivan Kaplan and Mike Mehawich participated in the competition. SunPhocus was evaluated by judges who included some of the most elite VCs, entrepreneurs, and attorneys in the country. Mehawich noted that what really impressed the judges “was the passion and enthusiasm we exhibited during our presentation. The feedback that we've received through the New Venture Challenge class here at the GSB helped us to tell our story in a compelling and engaging manner". Ivan Kaplan also credited their strong performance to help from Steve Kaplan, Bob Rosenberg, and Waverly Deutsch “who provided us invaluable feedback before the Jungle competition, and are continuing to provide assistance as we seek to raise our first round of capital".
The Challenge was open to entrepreneurs from around the world. Nearly 200 teams from across the country and from as far away as Israel, India, and Pakistan entered the competition. Eventually, the field was cut down to eight finalists from whom the winner was chosen.
Competition was of an extremely high quality, with more than half of past competitors receiving some kind of start-up funding. Jonathan McBride, co-founder and publisher of Jungle said “We are thrilled to be providing a platform for these dynamic entrepreneurs to build the next group of innovative, successful companies”.
According to the contest sponsors, the University of Chicago GSB was the most represented U.S. school at the Challenge, with four teams making the semi-finalist cut. The other GSB teams were LiquidTalk, PrepMe Premium Test Preparation, and RocketJot. PrepMe had previously won the Fortune Small Business award from best business plan. Ivan Kaplan felt "The University of Chicago teams had a significant competitive advantage as a consequence of school's sponsorship of the New Venture Challenge. We were afforded many opportunities to present our case before prominent VC's and professors prior to the Jungle competition. I think this is one of the reasons out of the 24 teams selected for the semi-finals (out of 250) five were from Chicago.”
The SunPhocus concentrator represents a new technology. The product, known as HoloSun, currently improves the output of a variety of solar cells by 25 percent. SunPhocus maintains an exclusive, worldwide license from the patent holder, the Illinois Institute of Technology, to commercialize the concentrator in the BIPV market. The company looks to sell HoloSun film to multiple producers of solar windows, skylights, shingles, and spandrel.