Entrepreneurship is alive and well: just ask Linda Zabors or Gurinder Dhillon. The MBA students are part of the team that won first place in the sixth annual Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge business plan competition at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.
The team won $20,000 for their plan for Occuity, a company that designs, manufacturers, and supports asset tracking equipment for transporting hazardous materials and tamper-sensitive shipments.
The second place award of $10,000 went to Advanced Chromatography Systems, a firm that develops innovative liquid separation technologies for use in a variety of industrial processing applications. The third place prize of $5,000 went to Maroon Biotech, a firm that will commercialize poloxamer technologies for the treatment of injuries and diseases.
The other five finalists—Auto Shop, CUBIS Group, InfoUnity, PinPoint and Symphony Design—received $2,000 each. Auto Shop had previously been one of five finalists in a national business plan competition.
A new "lightening round" in which teams made a quick stand-up pitch to the judges was added to the competition this year. Teams for Changing World Foods, DispatchNow, Drivebase, Purechem, and Supertilities were awarded $1,000 from this part of the competition.
All together, 59 teams entered the business plan competition. Competing teams spanned spanning various industries including health care, retail, software, financial services, information technology, and services.
"This year was by far the best competition yet, with more serious ideas that will no doubt lead to successes in the business world," says Steven N. Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago GSB and Academic Director of the Entrepreneurship Program.
The New Venture Challenge, organized by the business school's Entrepreneurship Program, provides a launch pad for new companies. Past winners of the business plan competition have included Brightroom, an online event photography company, and Sarvega, a technology company, and Medspeed, a provider of courier services for diagnostic laboratories. These companies have received capitalization and are operational.
Judges for the challenge included representatives from venture capital, technology and start-up companies. Title sponsor of the New Venture Challenge is Edward L. Kaplan, founder, chairman and CEO of Zebra Technologies Corporation. The platinum sponsor was The Coleman Foundation, Inc. Gold sponsors were Altheimer & Gray; Alta Partners; and Berry Allen, Elizabeth Pitt, and Linda Sloma, past award winners from last year's third place team. Frontenac Company and The Penrose Group were silver sponsors to the challenge.
The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is one of the oldest and largest business schools in the world. It offers full-time and part-time MBA programs, a PhD program, and open enrollment executive education.