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 Winners Pocket $20,000 Prize
Victory was sweet; so was the $20,000 prize for the first-place business plan submitted to the 13th annual Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition

By Mike Lillich, Purdue News Service

Derek Fetzer, a member of the winning team, makes a point during his presentaion.

Derek Fetzer

A business plan for a microscopic oxygen sensor measured up to a $20,000 prize in the 2000 Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition. A team of two Krannert Graduate School of Management students and a physics professor submitted the winning plan for their product prototype, a microscopic oxygen sensor with a myriad of potential commercial applications.

“The competition was tough, and even many of the teams that did not make it to the finals presented very credible plans,” says Shailendra R. Mehta, Purdue’s director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative. “In fact, the judges commented on how good all the plans were.”

The winning team included Krannert master’s students Derek M. Fetzer and Rene A. Yamin and Purdue physics professor Michael W. McElfresh. McElfresh, along with graduate student Mark Brazier, made the initial scientific breakthrough that led to the development of the prototype. Fetzer and Yamin presented a marketing and business plan for product development that projects sales of 30 million of the devices and a corporate net value of $70 million in five years.

While oxygen sensors are now widely used in industry and cars, the prototype devices’ small size and room-temperature operation make medical application the most promising and potentially profitable market. Oxygen sensors are necessary in such basic operations as blood tests and anesthesia, and they also have potential for in vivo (inside the body) use for a host of diagnostic procedures.

“We spent almost a year taking basic data and extrapolating it to build what ultimately became our business plan”, Fetzer says. “We believe we have the best of all possible worlds for a start-up business - a product that offers superior value at a much lower price than similar existing products.”

Fetzer, Yamin, and McElfresh are the principals in the fledgling enterprise dubbed Solid Strategies Inc. In addition to the prize money, Solid Strategies received office space in the Purdue Research Park and access to strategic, legal, and business resources to make the venture commercially successful. With the business plan hammered out, Fetzer says the company is conducting further research. “The scientific research part will go forward. We’re working to engineer the prototype, to perfect it.”

Krannert Dean Rick Cosier (left) watches the competition with it's namesake, Burton Morgan

Dean Cosier and Burton Morgan

Two computer engineering undergraduates, Joseph F. Warmelink and Jason M. Wash, both from Crown Point, Ind., came in second with NyteFyre, a computer-based speech recognition system that they plan to market to hospitals, physicians, and attorneys. This team, one of only five U.S. teams invited to a competition sponsored by Stanford, beat the plans of 13 other teams.

Third place went to a team of students for Med Buddy, a wireless computing device designed to reduce potentially fatal medical errors and improve and computerize medical record keeping. The principals of Dendria Networks Inc. are Michael J. Gerhold, Elizabeth A. Pang, Sea Chen, Saba Anvery, Sohail Hashmi, and Han-Chung Lin.

A team of engineering students and James J. Solberg, a professor of industrial engineering, placed fourth with redFOLIO.com, a software product designed to analyze manufacturing processes using computer modeling and simulation. This team also participated in a competition featured in Business Week that was sponsored by Garage.com and won $25,000.

The fifth-place prize went to the team of Sung-Chan Jo, a doctoral candidate in chemistry who developed an optical fingerprint-recognition system, and Robert Yan, a Krannert master’s degree student. Their product is an “intelligent house,” with all appliances and security devices run by a central Internet-based management system.

The competition is sponsored by Purdue alumnus and entrepreneur Burton D. Morgan, BSME ‘38 and HDR ‘92, the Krannert School of Management, the Schools of Engineering, and the School of Science. In addition to the $20,000 first-place prize, awards included a $5,000 second prize, a $2,000 third prize, a $1,000 fourth-place prize, and a $500 fifth-place prize. Both finalist and nonfinalist teams are eligible for support and expertise to bring their products to market.

In the past three years, the number of teams competing has risen from 15 to 50. This year, 173 people participated in the contest.

Judges for the competition were James C. Anderson, general partner of Foundation Capital in Menlo Park, Calif.; John C. Aplin, general manager of CID Equity Partners in Indianapolis; Donald W. Feddersen, general partner of Charles River Associates and Bessemer Venture Partners in Wellesley Hills, Mass.; Tom Hiatt, managing director of Midwest Venture Capital Partners in Indianapolis; Scott Jones, president, chairman, and chief executive officer of Escient Inc., in Carmel, Ind.; Robert B. McDonald of McDonald Enterprises in Lafayette; and Robert C. Reiling Jr., partner of Reiling, Teder & Schrier, Attorneys at Law.

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