Business Plan Competition Rewards Student Entrepreneurs

Graduate student-faculty duo takes top prize in annual event.

Business Plan Competition
From left to right: John Rollins, Adam Corman, Doug Guthrie, Neal Sikka and Annette Scott.
April 22, 2013

Winners of the George Washington University’s fifth annual business plan competition, medical resident Adam Corman and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine Neal Sikka took home $25,000 for their entrepreneurial venture Sonostik on Friday.

The celebration of innovation was presented by the GW School of Business and featured final presentations from eight student-led companies including Revilex, SmartBrush, Sonostik, Capital Kombucha, Jenda, BOSS Medical, Graphene Plasma Technology and MemoryBanc.

“We were very excited and surprised to get the award,” Dr. Corman said. “We couldn’t have done it without all the guidance from our advisers.”

According to Dr. Sikka, the idea for Sonostik, a company that offers improved patient care when using emergency ultrasound technology, came about in August 2012 through Dr. Corman’s work in the field.

But it was a second place finish and $1,500 in prize money in the graduate student category of the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence’s Pitch George Elevator contest that spurred the idea.

Cofounders Dr. Sikka and Dr. Corman credit the workshops leading up to the final competition with helping them refine their presentation and subsequently win over the panel of judges.

“We’re going to take the feedback we received from the Q&A and other people we’ve talked to and follow up on all the connections we’ve made here,” said Dr. Sikka, also noting that they would start evaluating prototyping teams in the near future.

This year’s competitors ranged from returning contender Capital Kombucha, a company that produces a fermented tea, to MemoryBanc, a company that provides software and other products to help organize personal and financial information.

Founded by Kay Bansford because her aging mother could no longer deposit money in the bank, MemoryBanc took home $5,000 and the prize for “Older Adult-Focused Innovation.”

Other winners included Graphene Plasma Technology, receiving $10,000 for second place as well as $5,000 for “Best Sustainable Technology,” SmartBrush, winning $3,000 for “Audience Choice,” a vote calculated through Twitter followers on the day of the event, and Jenda, winning $10,000 for “Best Undergraduate Team.”

GWSB sophomores and roommates Harry Shulman and Jitong Alex Zhang founded Jenda, a company that allows customers to scan commonly counterfeited items with a cell phone to determine authenticity.

“This competition has been very exciting,” Mr. Zhang said. “You meet new people, you make connections and you exchange ideas.”

BOSS Medical and Capital Kombucha also took home $4,000 and $1,000, respectively, as the third and fourth place winners.

Each team was assessed on their company’s viability in the marketplace and presentation.

The judges rated the market opportunity, distinctive competence, management capability, financial understanding, investment potential, the sequence and logic of the presentation, enthusiasm and persuasiveness and the quality of the visuals.

Panelists included Jamila Braithwaite, vice president of Capital One Bank; Chuck Carr, a partner with Deloitte & Touche; Allison Guimard, B.B.A. ’05; Michael Koopman, CEO of getAbstract Inc.; Roger Krakoff, founder and managing partner of Cloud Capital Partners; Lisa Martin, M.B.A. ’94, founder and CEO of LeapFrog Solutions; and keynote speaker Sonny Vu, CEO and co-founder of Misfit Wearables.

“We realized that having a good management team and people that got along would help you make it,” said returning judge Ms. Braithwaite. “Having that foundation helps take the project to the next level.”

Sponsors include Annette and Richard Scott, Capital One, Blank Rome LLP, AARP Foundation, iStrategylabs, Brazen Careerist, InTheCapital, the Whitaker Consultant Group and 99 Designs, as well as more than 10 schools and departments at GW.

“It was really exciting to be able to host through the business school but also acknowledge that this is a team effort across the university,” said School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie, offering thanks to those who made the event a success.

“Thank you most of all to the participants because these sorts of events don’t happen without a lot of hard work, excitement and participation,” he added.