Wake Forest Alumni Win Social Entrepreneurship Category at 9th Annual Elevator Competition

3.31.2008 Entrepreneurship, News Release, School News

A team of Wake Forest University alumni won the social entrepreneurship category of the ninth annual Elevator Competition at Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management on March 28-29.

AUDIO Elevator Competition Welcomes Social Entrepreneurs, Undergrads for First Time – WFDD's Jeff Tiberii talks to the students behind WFU Biofuels and social judge Bill Hinman about the competition and just how nerve-wracking having two minutes to make a business plan pitch in an elevator can be.

The team from Georgetown University and George Washington University bested 13 other teams made up of graduate and undergraduate students with their business plan called Bonseye Guides. The team plans to use its winnings of $5,000 and the $40,000 in resources to provide deaf people and others access to audio tours at museums through personal media players. The team is made up of Karen Borchert (’00 BA), Catharine McNally (’06 BA), Frank McNally (’02 BA) and Martin Franklin, University of Pretoria, South Africa, ’00. Borchert and Franklin are graduate students at Georgetown, while Frank McNally is a graduate student at George Washington.

The winner of the MBA portion of the business plan competition was a team from the University of Michigan. Ruba Borno, Tzeno Galchev and Rishiraj Das beat out 10 other semi-finalists in the for-profit category of the competition. The Michigan team will use its winnings of $5,000 and the $40,000 in resources to help turn their business plan for Potentia into reality. Potentia uses breakthrough energy scavenging technology to extend the lifetime of wireless sensors for a battery replacement product.

Wake Forest alumni Karen Borchert ('00), Frank McNally ('02), Catharine McNally ('06), and Martin Franklin, who is a graduate student at Georgetown along with Borchert, accept the award for winning the social entrepreneurship portion from social judges Jason Massey and Bill Hinman (BA '76, MA '85, MBA '87).
Tzeno Galchev, Rishiraj Das, and Ruba Borno of the University of Michigan receive their award from judge Daniel Egger (pictured second from right) for winning the MBA for-profit business plan portion. Egger is also a co-founder of the competition.

This year’s competition marked the first time a second set of elevators was added specifically for socially minded entrepreneurs. The event was held at the Wachovia Center in downtown Winston-Salem. In another first, undergraduate as well as graduate teams from top universities across the country were invited to compete, pitching ideas that solve a pressing social need based on the triple bottom line: economic, environmental and social.

“The social entrepreneurship category brought a renewed sense of energy to this year’s competition,” said Daniel Egger, who co-founded the competition with Stan Mandel, director of the Angell Center for Entrepreneurship and executive professor of entrepreneurship at the school.

Like those participating in the traditional MBA business plan competition, social venture teams had a two-minute elevator ride during which to pitch their ideas to venture capitalists. Ten pitch finalists, two of which were Wake Forest teams, gave a 20-minute presentation to a panel of venture capitalists. Schools represented included Carnegie Mellon University, New York University, and the University of North Carolina, among others. Each competing team received $1,000 just for making its pitch.

Friday night’s events at the Wachovia building included a presentation and question-and-answer session with Winston-Salem entrepreneur Joe Michalek, founder of Piedmont Distillers, the maker of Catdaddy and Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon moonshine. This year also marked the first time an international judge attended the competition. Dr. Sibilla Nagel is an economist and a lawyer for Peters Schönberger & Partner in Munich, Germany.

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