Three UA entrepreneur teams win contests

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 113 views 

A third graduate student team from the University of Arkansas has taken the top prize in a 2012 business plan contest that carries an automatic berth for the Venture Labs Investment Competition.

This marks the first time any university has won three qualifying contests for the Super Bowl of business plan competitions in the same year.

A team led by Ellen Brune, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, won the competition at the University of Nebraska on March 13, another in a string of victories by teams from the University of Arkansas.

“The University of Arkansas has been excelling in national and international business plan competitions since 2009, but we reached new heights in 2012,” Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship and a professor in the department of management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business, said in a statement. “This solidifies the University of Arkansas’ reputation as one of the preeminent schools in the world for the development of student start-ups.”

She said 2012 was the first time since the Moot Corp Competition – now known as the Venture Labs Investment Competition – was founded in 1987 that three teams from the same university have won qualifying competitions.

Reeves has advised 14 national first-place-winning Walton College teams, accounting for more than $1.25 million in cash prizes since 2002. She had three teams win national competitions in 2010, but one of those was not an automatic qualifier for the Venture Labs Investment Competition.

Only 40 teams from throughout the world qualify for the Venture Labs Investment Competition. The competition takes place in May at the University of Texas at Austin, where teams compete for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. Investors regularly attend these competitions, getting a sneak-peek at up-and-coming entrepreneurs and new ventures as they decide where to invest their money.

In January, the Learning DifferentiatED team, led by its president and chief executive officer, Barry James, a doctoral candidate in the microelectronics-photonics program, earned first place at the IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition, Canada’s premier graduate student business plan competition. For its first place finish, Learning DifferentiatED received a prize of $20,000 and an automatic berth to the competition in Austin.

In February, a group of five Walton College graduate students earned the top prize at the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville. Their business plan for SpatiaLink Solutions, a company rooted in supply chain management, reinvents retailers’ shelf planning process to insure that customers find the products they want, when they want them — thus limiting lost sales for the store. (Link here for more info on SpatiaLink.)

For their victory, the SpatiaLink team was awarded $15,000 and an automatic berth in the Venture Lab Investment Competition.