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Entrepreneurial Idol: Battle of the Business Plans

This year’s Entrepreneurial Idol: Battle of the Business Plans contest put the spotlight on the hottest entrepreneurial ideas and the entrepreneurs behind them during the 20th Annual Entrepreneurship Conference at Harvard Business School. Participants included entrepreneurs from all over the United States; MBA students from HBS, MIT, Wharton, Columbia and Stanford; graduate students from other Harvard graduate schools such as Harvard Medical School, as well as undergrads from Harvard, MIT and Babson.

The contest received over 55 business plans ranging from concepts spun out of an undergrad dorm room, to patented products ready for launch. Rahul Advani, Battle of Business Plans Chair, commented: “This is a great competition for a wide range of individuals, open to those who have a developed business plans to those who are just embarking on [testing the] the feasibility of an idea”.

In the spirit of lively competition, the Entrepreneurial Idol: Battle of the Business Plans was run in a highly interactive fashion. The first round consisted of back-to-back 30-second elevator pitches and this was followed by a second round of compellingly concise three-minute, three-slide presentations.

Round one, the “Lightning Round,” featured all 55 contestants. From this round, the panel of judges selected 10 contestants to proceed to the final round, dropping 45 teams from the competition. During Round two, the “Challenger’s Round,” contestants presented their ideas to the audience and a new panel of judges.

Among the 55 contestants, the following teams and business plans emerged the winners:

Coolest Idea Award, and Strongest Team Award ($2,000): Extend Fertility (HBS)
Team: Christy Jones (OH), Laetitia Pichot (OH), Yu-Jin Kim (OC), Tatyana Daniels (OH)
As numerous studies show, there has been a growing trend of women having children later in life. The problem with this trend is that the health of a woman’s eggs peak at 27, and declines from the mid-thirties onwards. Given that the probability of successful pregnancy depends on the health of a woman’s eggs, women who are choosing to have children later in life encounter numerous challenges. Thus, there is growing demand for technologies or processes that solve this problem.

Extend Fertility offers the most compelling solution the market has seen by far. Extend Fertility offers a service that would harvest, freeze, and store women’s eggs for potential future use. Through an exclusively licensed breakthrough technology and process created by leading scientists from Stanford University, Extend Fertility’s service raises the odds of having a successful pregnancy after age 40 by more than 2.5 times.

The company is founded by Christy Jones (OH), a serial entrepreneur who was CEO of Trilogy and pcOrder.com before she came to HBS. Jones’ experience in building businesses includes growing Trilogy to a $150-million revenue business, taking pcOrder.com public, and selling pcOrder.com to Trilogy. Extend Fertility has received much press and has been featured in numerous publications including Elle and Cosmopolitan.

People’s Choice Award: A tie between Xoli and El-Cine ($1,000 each)

Xoli: Beauty at Work (HBS)
Team: Carole Gardner (OF), Rachel Saget (OD), Meghan Keough (OF), Ling Hu (NB)

El-Cine: (HBS)
Team: Michael Hernandez-Soria (OH), Anne Morriss (OB), Isai Ramirez

Xoli
As society moves towards mass customization, Xoli differentiates itself by building a new luxury brand and shopping experience for the young professional woman so that she gets what she wants, when she wants it. Xoli will empower a woman to select, design and fit her professional wardrobe so that she looks and feels her best. Xoli addresses the young, emerging female executive that frequents retail stores like Ann Taylor, and provides her with “the ultimate shopping experience,” one that combines “the live professional advice found in an “in-style” magazine, the quality of Armani fabrics, the click and pick selection style of the internet, and the one-on-one attention of a personal tailor.”

El-Cine
El-Cine focuses on acquiring empty or “boarded-up” movie theaters in inner city locations, and then re-opening them to show mostly American films either dubbed or with Spanish sub-titles, to a largely Hispanic audience. As the “exhibitor” industry moved to mega-plexes, they left behind many empty theaters located in less-affluent areas with largely Hispanic populations with limited social options besides bars and flea markets. Opening these theatres would provide a popular and lucrative social venue for an underserved market – and a significant investment opportunity.

Biggest Market Opportunity Award ($1,000)
OrganoDevice Technologies (MIT Sloan)
Team: Matthew Vokoun and Frank Shi
OrganoDevice Technologies (ODT) is focused on creating and producing Organic Light Emitting Devices (OLEDs) that are “inkjet-printable, on-chip integrated, full-color, and ultra low-cost.”

It is projected that current LCD technology which powers many full-color flat panels will eventually be replaced by OLEDS. ODT capitalizes on two proprietary OLED technologies leveraged from years of research at the University of Illinois’ Micro & Nanotechnology Lab and Seitz Materials Research Lab. ODT plans to initially target flexible laptop computers and flat, lightweight, wall-mountable television screens.

Best Chance of Success Award ($1,000)
FullPro Safety Supply (HBS)
Team: David Clark (NF), Erik Mikysa, Gabriel Post, Ryan Jacoby and Hideto Niioka
The company has patented a product (SoundVision) that protects both ears and eyes in activities such as “shooting guns for training or sport, operating loud equipment, and working in loud environments such as factories.” This product departs from the typical earmuff and eyeglass style protection by providing an integrated solution. Growth is projected to come through creating additional distribution channels to reach new customer segments, and then through creating product extensions.

The following teams and business plans were also among the 10 finalists:

Beacon Beer Company
Team: Ted Hill, Allen Duan, Kyle Schultz, Brett Atkinson
Beacon Beer Company will produce a new organic beer product, and aspires to capitalize on the growth trends within the organic alcohol market. The company wants to capitalize on the fast-growing US organic alcohol segment which is growing at 350% annually. The management team has already forged relationships with an experienced brewmaster, a contract brewer and alcohol distributors to produce and sell organic beer.

Fastlane Apparel, Inc.
Team: Atesa Farshian, Sherry Jhawar
Fastlane Apparel is a branded women’s clothing label targeted at the younger professional woman (ages 22-35), and specifically focused on creating and providing “careerwear” reflecting women’s “personality, attitude and style.” Fastlane plans to build its brand and launch its products through trunk shows and home/office shopping.

Kidz Korner (MIT Sloan)
Team: Jamie Dooley, Justin Guichard, Anne Rosen
Kidz Korner, presented by a team from MIT Sloan, offers “a destination point for parents and children to go for activities and entertainment.” Entertainment varies from puppet shows to magic shows, video games to appearances by “Sponge Bob,” and other fun activities to keep children engaged during a parent’s shopping experience. The team believes its competitive advantages lie in being a first mover and securing lease exclusivity in major malls, offering lower prices compared to competitors like Discovery Zone, and providing easy, convenient access for consumers. The company founder has founded two retail companies prior to attending Sloan.

Ligeia (Harvard Medical School)
Team: Daniel Janse, Carl Chen, David Kuo, Ali Yeyinmen
Ligeia is a drug discovery company with a lead compound for the $1.4 billion market related to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection. HPV is a sexually Transmitt
ed Disease (STD) afflicting close to 300 million people worldwide. HPV may lead into cervical cancer when untreated in women. Ligeia treats this by providing “a small-molecule therapeutic that specifically targets viral proteins within the infected cell to the proteasome for degradation.” The purpose is to halt disease progression by getting rid of the virus from the body.

Tulip Medical
Team: Dr. Seth Dailey, Kristin Domike, Reuben Domike, Stephen Fox
Tulip Medical’s business is based on “a novel, patented cuff for atraumatic tracheal tubes,” also called endotracheal tubes. These tubes connect ventilators and the lungs when artificial respiration is needed. Current products on the market have several drawbacks, including irritating patients’ tracheas, also possibly causing death in certain cases. The team envisions a huge opportunity: “The market for this product is greater than 30 million units per year and growing at an annual rate of at least 5%.

The current product sells for approximately $5 and thus the market is greater than $150 million. The technical and safety advantages of our cuff will be significant factors in allowing us to rapidly capture a large share of the endotracheal tube market. In addition, the design of our device was developed by a chief surgeon and will likely be embraced by the medical community. Additional design and testing advice is being provided by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Respiratory Care and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Otolaryngology.”

Looking back at the experience, People’s Choice Award-winner Carole Gardner (OF) reflects: “It was definitely a fun competition! There was a lot of high energy. You have thirty seconds to present, then three minutes.

It was great to have to think in that way – in three minutes, focusing on the most salient points, honing on to what the value proposition is, and why this business concept is so powerful. It was also great to be able to present to an audience, to have exposure in front of the whole school, and to have a lot of feedback!”

At the end of the event, Rahul Advani (OB), Entrepreneurial Idol Chair, came out highly energized and inspired. At the Conference After-Party, he was found muttering to himself: “The entire contest was great. I am stealing everyone’s ideas – Botox, outsourcing of drive-through windows, cryogenically freezing eggs. All of those will be incorporated under a business bearing my name. Investors should contact me to invest immediately! Kidding aside, we encourage everyone to start thinking about ideas for next year’s Battle of the Business Plans. It’s one of the best ever experiences you’ll have here at HBS”.

April 20, 2004
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