The first international team to compete in the Wake Forest MBA Elevator Competition won top honors by pitching its business plan for a device that distinguishes between acute bacterial or viral infections inexpensively, quickly and accurately.
Students from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology won the event, which included 19 other teams from the nation’s top MBA schools competing on Saturday, April 8, at the Wachovia building in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C. The competition, the first of its kind in the country, is presented annually by the Angell Center for Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management.
From left to right: Birgit Vagani, Carl Li and Neha Bhatia
The Hong Kong team members impressed venture capitalists during the two-minute elevator pitch. The team was one of five to make the final round during which additional face time was granted so the teams could make formal boardroom presentations of their proposals. The pitch involved AB OVO Diagnostics’ device that can—within 15 minutes—distinguish between acute viral and acute bacterial infections, through a finger-prick blood sample. Members of the team include Birgit Vagani, Carl Li and Neha Bhatia.
In addition to the Hong Kong team, other finalists were:
- Easter REIT, Harvard, enables homeowners to swap a minority share of their individual home values in exchange for a diversified pool of home investments.
- Fair Market Financial, Harvard, provides low-cost tax preparation for low-wage workers at their work site.
- AudioFusion, Wake Forest, retrains the brain to tune out tinnitus through a combination of sound therapy and directive counseling.
- FS Dashboard, University of Georgia, caters to fantasy sports interests via a web portal.
“The Elevator Competition is a reality check for serious entrepreneurs because it simulates the business world,” says Stan Mandel, director of the Angell Center and co-founder of the competition. “It’s a Cinderella story for entrepreneurs. This year was the best yet, in terms of interest, quality and diversity of venture focus. We are finding that more MBA students are quite serious about launching a great venture upon graduation, and this group from Hong Kong echoes that finding.”
The Elevator Competition, completing its seventh year, is the premier “elevator pitch” competition and one of the nation’s most exciting entrepreneurship events of the year.
Of the 70 submissions (an event record), 20 teams competed. Schools competing this year included Carnegie Mellon, Chicago, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Hong Kong, Michigan, New York University, Pittsburgh, Temple, Utah, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Wisconsin.
The Elevator Competition is sponsored by Wachovia Corp. Other sponsors include Philip Morris, SAS, CapitalSouth Partners, Market Perspectives, RF Micro Devices, Otis Elevator, Progress Energy, Dell, Bundy & Co., !dealliance/Piedmont Triad Research Park, the Angell Center, 21C Retail Arts, Womble Carlyle, Mullen, SilkRoad technology, Vino del Sol (2004 Elevator Competition winner) and Eno River Capital.
The event is organized by Wake Forest MBA students. This year’s co-chairs were W. Clint Bundy Jr., Zachary J. Luszcz and Jennifer E. Norris.
About the Wake Forest MBA Elevator Competition: Entrepreneurs take their business ideas from the ground floor to the top—literally—in two minutes flat. Every second counts as MBA students board elevators and try to persuade venture capitalists to invest in their business plans during a pair of 28-floor elevator rides.
For the winner, the two-minute journey becomes the ride of a lifetime. The winner receives cash and professional services, including legal and marketing services, totaling $45,000. More importantly, the winner gets the undivided attention of potential investors. Venture capitalists from three firms representing more than $500 million in early stage funds serve as judges. The winning team enters discussions with one or more venture capital firms, with the possibility of getting its business plan funded.
Some past winners of the competition are taking flight as full-fledged businesses. Altadonics Corp., which won in 2002 as a Wake Forest entry under the name D-Tec-Dent, is implementing its strategic business plan and gaining investor interest and financial backing. The company offers a patented 3-D technique for creating and storing impressions of dentures, allowing replacement within a few hours should they be lost or damaged. Altadonics is in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with the largest distributor of dental and health-care products throughout North America and Europe.
SightSpeed, a Cornell University entry which competed in 2002 under the name QVIX Technologies, has closed its first round of professional venture capital investment. The company creates real-time desktop videoconferencing software and has built a rapidly growing user base.
Vino del Sol, a successful importer of Argentine wines, was launched on capital raised as a result of winning the 2004 competition as an entry from the University of Mississippi. The company distributes more than 25 wines nationally throughout the United States and provided beverages for this year’s event as a sponsor.
Wake Forest, the Babcock School and its Angell Center rank among the top tier of national colleges and universities for entrepreneurship in the fourth annual ranking of programs by TechKnowledge Point Corp. The survey previously was published in Entrepreneur magazine. Visit www.mba.wfu.edu/elevator for more information.