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Concussion-detecting device takes top prize in Notre Dame’s annual business plan competition

by Carol Elliott

April 23, 2013

Business Chart


WINNERS ANNOUNCED IN THE 2012-2013 MCCLOSKEY BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION

After nine months of perfecting their business plans, teams competing for nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes put it on all the line Friday (April 19) at the Mendoza College of Business.

In a close contest among six finalists, Contect emerged as the winner of the $25,000 McCloskey Business Plan Competition Grand Prize. Christian Poellabauer and Patrick Flynn, faculty members in Computer Science, presented their technology for a new, instantaneous, accurate concussion assessment tool which will be particularly helpful in detecting concussions in soldiers and athletes. The service captures an individual’s voice and detects subtle changes that may indicate a concussion.

Sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship in the Mendoza College of Business, the competition is for ventures that have not been launched or are in the earliest stages of launch.

The top social venture award – the Klau Family Prize for Greatest Social Impact – went to Green Bridge Growers, an urban aquaponics farm designed as a social enterprise to produce revenue and create jobs for highly capable young adults with autism in the South Bend community.  Mendoza’s undergraduate Social Entrepreneurship class began working with Green Bridge founder Jan Pilarski last fall as she began to address this very unique market opportunity in South Bend.

Karen Slaggert, associate director of the Gigot Center, believes that every participant is a winner.  “We are so very pleased with the exceptional quality and diversity which was evident within our participants this year. Our goal is to set these new ventures up for success in the market by providing mentoring, networking, feedback and exceptional resources for each team. We are particularly pleased that we continue to see a large number of social ventures, those that seek to address a significant social concern.  These ventures are the embodiment of Mendoza’s challenge to Ask More of Business, Ask More of Yourself.”

"The plans presented this year were the best I have seen," said Gigot Center Director Jeff Bernel. "They were diverse and intriguing, with each one having the potential of becoming a sustainable and successful future business.”

Mendoza students Luke Heneghan and Brad Kunisky were the only undergraduate students to advance to the semifinal round, presenting Green Energy Zambia, a social enterprise that seeks to provide affordable and renewable energy sources for the Sub-Saharan African region of the world.  Current MBA students Konrad Billetz, Melissa Cheng, Stephanie Pellerito and Ryan Welsh led their new venture, Frameri Eyeglass Co., all the way to the final round of the competition, winning $36,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.

The top prize winners included:

McCloskey Grand Prize ($25,000): Contect, a new instantaneous, accurate concussion assessment service designed to detect incidences of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

McCloskey Runner-up prizes ($5,000 to each): 

  • Frameri Eyeglass Co., an online Rx eyeglass and sunglass company that focuses on affordable, fashion-forward designs for glasses with interchangeable frames
  • Torigen Pharmaceuticals, a veterinary vaccine designed to combat adenocarcinoma based cancers, based upon technology created at Notre Dame by professor Mark Suckow

Klau Family Prize for Greatest Social Impact ($15,000):  Green Bridge Growers, an urban aquaponics farm designed as a social enterprise to produce revenue and create jobs for highly capable young adults with autism in the South Bend community.

Sutherland Family Award for Best Presentation ($5,000): Frameri Eyeglass Co

A total of 148 teams entered the McCloskey Competition last fall. Nearly 700 members of the Notre Dame community served as team members, judges and mentors. The final event also included a Venture Fair, which was a science-fair type exhibit where more than 40 entrepreneurs put their new ventures on display.  Mendoza student-led teams Green Energy Zambia and Frameri Eyeglass Co. walked away with $1,000 cash prizes for best presentation.

The McCloskey Competition has taken on a unique role in the commercialization pipeline at Notre Dame, helping to move these high-tech ventures to commercialization from their genesis in research. The Gigot Center helps to provide the necessary resources—an entrepreneurial toolkit of software, mentoring, networking and feedback— to help aspiring ND entrepreneurs as they develop the business model, write the business plan and launch the venture.

Gigot Center founder Gary Gigot has been a part of the McCloskey Competition since the beginning.  "Entrepreneurship came into focus at Notre Dame in 1997.  Our goal was to ‘create a sense of the possible.’  Fast forward to the 2013 McCloskey Business Plan Competition and you now see visionary and pragmatic ND entrepreneurs defining and broadening what is possible in a range of business models and sectors.  Ambitious, complete and convincing business plans are now the norm."

In addition to the prize winners above, McCloskey Business Plan Competition award winners included:

  • Best Venture Fair Presentation Awards ($1,000): presented to Frameri Eyeglass Co. and Green Energy Zambia
  • Innovation Park at Notre Dame Accelerator Award ($4,000 in space and consultation services): awarded to all 12 semifinalist teams
  • Office of Technology Transfer Award ($10,000 in patent reimbursement awarded to the ND Technology with Best Commercial Potential): Contect  
  • FISH Social Venture R&D Award ($7,000 in cash and in-kind services): Custom Elevation
  • Bernel Investment Management LLC Best Bootstrap Award ($2,000): Green Energy Zambia
  • Palo Alto Software Best Written Student Plans:  $1,000 for best undergraduate plan (ShopTalk Inc.) and $1,000 for best graduate plan (Frameri Eyeglass Co.)
  • First State Bank Banking Award ($5,000 in cash and in-kind services): The Indiana Whiskey Company
  • NestGSV Summer Residency Program (Summer residency at NestGSV in Silicon Valley; access to programs and resources, valued at $15,000): Contect, Frameri Eyeglass Co. and Empower (Oak Financial)
  • Kilpatrick Townsend Kickstart Award ($5,000 in legal services for company formation; a "credit line" of up to $25,000 to be used for legal services until company reaches $500,000 in external financing): Contect, DM Oligonucleotides, Empower and Torigen Pharmaceuticals
  • Fish & Richardson Award for IP Services ($25,000 in IP services given to the team most deserving of assistance relating to IP services): $15,000 awarded to Contect, $5,000 awarded to Frameri Eyeglass Co. and $5,000 awarded to Empower (Oak Financial).

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 1998 for the purpose of fostering innovation and infusing aspiring entrepreneurs with a sense of the possible. Through rigorous coursework, our business plan competitions, extensive networking and mentorship, and hands-on learning experiences, we provide students with the knowledge and skills vital to entrepreneurship.

For more information about the Gigot Center, call (574) 631-3042 or visit gigot.nd.edu.