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Braintree Financial Wins 2007 Business Plan Competition at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business


A business plan for a boutique financial services firm that provides “end-to-end” payment processing services won the 2007 Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

The firm, Braintree Financial, was founded in 2006 by Bryan Johnson, a recent graduate of the executive M.B.A. program. The winning business plan was submitted by Johnson and three of his classmates from the 2007 graduating class: Chris Kaltenbach, James MacEachem, and Wes Thompson.

Braintree, which is now in full operation and based in Bartlett, IL., received $25,000 for its winning plan. The company is a full service provider of payment processing services such as credit card and check processing, recurring billing, e-commerce solutions, and related services such as financing and security compliance. Braintree’s current customers include Inc. 500 and publicly traded companies.

The second place award was shared by The Perfect Dinner, providing fresh-made dinners that are fully prepared and ready to heat and eat at home available through carry-out or delivery, and Varna Research, which provides clinical trials, data collection and feasibility testing to medical device customers in the U.S. and Europe through the use of Varna’s extensive clinical network in India. The Perfect Dinner, also in full operation, and Varna Research each received $15,000 in prize money.

The business plan for The Perfect Dinner was developed by current students in the executive M.B.A. program: Karen Gruber, John Jasper, Chetan Joshi, Sue Klaus, Sara McVey, and Mike Sorrentino. Jill Haas and Dianne Dinkel contributed to the business plan although they are not students at Chicago GSB. The plan for Varna Research was developed by Richard Jenkins, an evening M.B.A. student, and Derek Robinson, M.D. and Vikram Vuppala, both enrolled in the full-time M.B.A. program.

“Every year the business plans entered in this competition get better and so do the presentations,” said Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago GSB and faculty director of the school’s Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. “This year was no exception. The judges had such a difficult time deciding among the plans that six were chosen for prize recognition,” Kaplan said.

The nine finalists in this year’s New Venture Challenge ranged from a business plan for improved medical X-ray technology to a company selling intimate apparel to the Chinese market. The Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge was founded in 1997 as a way to encourage M.B.A. students at the University of Chicago to put their entrepreneurial vision into practice. The business plan competition has launched more than 40 new companies which have attracted more than $100 million in funding.

Judges for this year’s competition included 18 venture capitalists, successful entrepreneurs and service providers in the venture community. Sponsors were Edward L. Kaplan, founder, chairman and chief executive of Zebra Technologies, Guy P. Nohra, cofounder and general partner of Alta Partners, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, DaimlerChrysler, Mitsubishi Corp., Bell Boyd & Lloyd, Harris Bank and Reed Smith LLP. In addition to supporting the program, DaimlerChrysler also provided seed money this year to the top innovative technology teams, and Mitsubishi provided seed money to the top international business teams. T

he University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is one of the leading business schools in the world and part of a University with an international reputation in research and education. The school’s faculty includes many renowned scholars and its graduates include many business leaders across the U.S and worldwide. It is consistently ranked as one of the top ten business schools in the world and usually as one of the top five. The Chicago approach to management education is distinguished by how it leverages fundamental knowledge, its rigor, and its practical application to business challenges.

Chicago GSB offers full-time and part-time M.B.A. programs, an executive M.B.A. program, a Ph.D. program, open enrollment executive education and custom corporate education.