By Brittney Dunkins
Student-led team Sensamir earned a first place finish and $35,000 in funding at the George Washington University Business Plan Competition held on Friday.
The winning proposal, a zero-calorie dietary supplement that enhances taste recognition in cancer patients who have had their tastes altered through chemotherapy and radiation therapy, was presented by Sensamir Chief Executive Officer and School of Medicine and Health Sciences fourth-year medical student Rehan Quadri and Sensamir Chief Marketing Officer Owais Khalid.
“The GW Business Plan Competition provided me with strong mentors, guided me through creating and executing a business strategy and gave me the finances and office space to successfully move forward with my company,” Mr. Quadri said.
A record $130,000 in cash and in-kind prizes were awarded in nine categories at the sixth annual competition, hosted by the GW Office of Entrepreneurship.
Annette and Richard Scott, Capital One, Luther King Capital Management, Blank Rome, LLP, the AARP Foundation, Deloitte, Brazen Careerist, WeWork, Affinity Lab, AdvantEdge, iStrategyLabs, In The Capital and Event Rentals DC were among the co-sponsors, as well as more than 10 GW schools and departments.
“It seems that the entrepreneurial spirit is sweeping the George Washington campus with 113 teams from all 10 schools competing,” Director and Co-founder John Rollins said.
“Since I founded the competition six years ago, it has grown each year and now offers more than $130,000 in prizes,” he said. “This puts GW in the top 10 largest university business plan competitions in the country.”
Two social entrepreneurship categories, “Best Non-Profit Social Venture” and “Best For-Profit Social Venture,” were added as an initiative of the GW: Social Innovation Lab + Prize and the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service this year.
The Pedal Forward team, led by SMHS senior Matt Wilkins, was awarded the “Best For-Profit Social Venture” and “Best Sustainable Technology” prizes.
The sustainable bamboo bike company promotes a low-carbon, healthy lifestyle in the U.S. and abroad. Formerly known as Panda Cycles, the idea started as commitment to action for the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative University conference.
“Social entrepreneurship is important because it provides a framework for businesses to find their own success while also in pursuit of helping others,” Mr. Wilkins said.
“We have been working on the idea for two years and are ready to scale up. The competition enabled us to write a formal business plan and use it to seek larger seed funding,” he said.
“Best Non-profit Social Venture” went to Common Sense Action, a bi-partisan cross-campus organization that seeks to mobilize college students for political action.
The 10 final teams presented a variety of creative entrepreneurial ideas such as hyper-local, social media messaging application Yapper and Generation A, a record company that connects independent artists with fans and donates a portion of music sales to nonprofit and advocacy organization.
Software solutions company BitGrid earned a second place prize and $15,000 for their plan to create more efficient power grids. Third place and $8,000 went to Yapper; and Small Spacecraft Micropropulsion, a company that provides low mass and power electric propulsion solutions for small satellites, won fourth place and $5,000.
The “Older Adult Focused Innovation” prize, presented by AARP, went to DormGen, a company that help senior citizens earn extra money by renting out their homes to students during their travels abroad.
“The diversity of the innovative business models presented by all the participants underlines the interdisciplinary nature of entrepreneurship,” Office of Entrepreneurship Executive Director Jim Chung said.
The panel of expert judges included Clifford M. Kendall, former chairman and CEO of Computer Data Systems, Inc.;Terrell McCombs, senior managing partner and chairman of the Advisory Committee of McCombs Enterprises; Scott Rechler, director and CEO of LearnServe International and Ann Scott, former first lady of Florida.
Peter Weissman, partner at Blank Rome LLP; Omar Woodard, former GW Board of Trustees member and principal at Venture Philanthropy Partners; and Andrew D. Zacharias, CFA, principal at LKCM Private Discipline Management, LP and LKCM Headwater Investments GP also served on the panel.