Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Innovation Challenge Tomorrow!

I am very much looking forward to the Innovation Challenge that will take place tomorrow at UMass Amherst.

Eleven student teams will compete for $10,000 in prizes and support for their business ideas during the first stage of the sixth annual Innovation Challenge. The executive summary and elevator pitch competition will be held at 3:30 p.m. in Room 1009 in the Campus Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The teams are vying in a contest designed to inspire and reward the best entrepreneurial business plans from UMass Amherst students, recent alumni, and their faculty advisors. A second phase of the Innovation Challenge, featuring full business plans and investor presentations, is planned for April 28, 2011.

Over $350,000 has been awarded to 32 teams in previous years.

One of my favorite winners, thus far, was Bug Power, which won this phase 2 years ago (indeed, I am a bit biased since one of the team members was a doctoral student in Management Science, Xuan Huang, who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama). Bug Power's proposed product was a microbe-powered porta pottie. Specifically, this startup proposed a portable water closet that uses bacteria to clean up waste, eliminate odor and generate its own electricity! This team ended up second in the final round with the $25,000 prize and was quoted on as saying: Our first product is the eToilet—an eco-friendly, electricity-generating toilet that uses waste to power fans, lights and sensors that make portable toilets cleaner, brighter and odorless . We are confident that the eToilet will be a breath of fresh air for the $1 billion portable toilet rental industry.

There are 11 teams that are competing this year at this stage and each team also has a Faculty Advisor. I was approached by two teams to help them out but, according to the rules, can only advise one.

Here is the order in which the teams will be pitching tomorrow --

o 3D Therapeutics
o Aha! Productions
o Bacteriotix
o Climate Risk Planning
o Flexolyte
o GreenAgency
o GreenNav
o Last Mile Wireless
o Posytive
o Safety Through Green
o SHM.

What I find especially interesting is the number of teams with a "green" theme.

We expect to start a little after 3:30PM with opening remarks from VCRE Michael Malone. Dr. Malone, along with my former colleague, Dr. Soren Bisgaard, spearheaded this competition (Dr. Bisgaard died December 14, 2009 of lung cancer).

The full press release can be accessed here.