Young Innovators Win $50,000 In Second Annual University of Maryland Business Plan Competition
The University of Maryland awarded $50,000 yesterday to three promising groups of entrepreneurs during its Second Annual Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Hinman CEOs Program. The winners, whose companies include University of Maryland students and recent alumni, are developing a new, non-invasive method of vision correction; robotic therapy for disabled children; and enterprise resource planning software for chemical manufacturers. "This award really validates our company," said Dr. Cori Lathan, whose company AnthroTronix received the top award in the small business category. "Being recognized by such an esteemed panel of judges is an honor." Six teams of finalists were judged by a panel of the region’s top venture capitalists, angel investors and service providers. The winners believe recognition by this group will help them refine their business models—and also serve as a springboard for future financial backing. "Winning the competition has given me a lot of confidence to go forward," said Jeffrey Porter, vice president for research and development of Novoculi, which received top honors in the emerging company category. "I'm now going to concentrate on securing our first round of funding and developing partnerships." Porter is an MBA student at the University's Robert H. Smith School of Business. Awards were made in three categories: emerging company, small business and concept-stage. Emerging companystage winner Novoculi is developing a new vision correction technique called Non-Invasive Corneal Sculpting (NICS), which could replace LASIK as the main type of surgery for eliminating nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism by removing the number one cause of complications in current methods—the incision. Novoculi was awarded $25,000. AnthroTronix, winner of $15,000 in the small business category, is a start-up company in the University’s incubator, the Technology Advancement Program. The company has developed an integrated wireless robot and Internet-based subscription service offering interactive, gestural therapy for children and adults with motor and development disabilities. Besides Lathan, AthroTronix’s team includes vice president Jack Maxwell, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Maryland in 2001. Concept stage winner PMConnect is building an application software product for chemical manufacturers that simultaneously optimizes supply chain and preventative maintenance scheduling. The package may help manufacturers gain back more than $15 billion lost each year on production costs, contract labor, materials and high inventories. PMConnect’s team includes Russell Lorber and Jonathan Wilson, both MBA students in the Smith School. PMConnect was awarded $10,000. The Business Plan Competition also included a semifinal round last fall, during which 16 semifinalists received $1,000 awards. The finalists for yesterday’s event were chosen on February 25. Sponsors for the Competition include some of the top names in the local entrepreneurship community, including Ernst & Young, Mohr Davidow Ventures, the Mid Atlantic Venture Association (MAVA), Cooley Godward, Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe, and the Telecommunications Development Fund. The judging panel included Gregg Corso, partner at Cooley Godward LLP; Ginger Lew, chief executive officer of the Telecommunications Development Fund; Edwin M. Martin Jr., partner and co-chair of the business and technology practice group at Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe LLP; Jonathan Shames, partner at Ernst and Young LLP; Mike Sheridan, general partner at Mohr, Davidow Ventures; Errol Unikel, principal at Unicorn Partners; Steve Walker, president of Steve Walker & Associates; and Nora Zetz, director of the Abell Venture Fund. The competition is managed by the Hinman CEOs Program, a unique living-learning entrepreneurship program that teaches students how to start their own companies in a high-tech, incubator-like environment. In just its second year, the program has already yielded success. More than 17 businesses are currently being pursued by the program’s 108 students, with seven of those companies already recording profits. The Hinman program is a joint initiative of the Engineering Research Center, in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, along with the Smith School’s Department of Entrepreneurship.
April 15, 2002