Purdue student-led team wins global business plan competition

June 28, 2011

RollOut Green, a startup business launched by four Purdue University students, captured the top prize in the University Division at the PolyU Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge 2011 at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. RollOut Green team members, from left, are David Barron of Saline, Mich.; Ankit Gupta of Carmel, Ind.; Manaz Taleyarkhan of Lafayette, Ind.; and Alvin Ang of Malaysia. (Photo provided by Hong Kong Polytechnic University)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A student-led team from Purdue University developing an easy-to-use flower sheet for creating a backyard garden claimed the top prize at the PolyU Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge 2011 at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

RollOut Green, led by Alvin Ang, David Barron, Ankit Gupta and Manaz Taleyarkhan, captured the event's University Division, which included six teams that had advanced to the finals. More than 190 secondary school and university teams globally entered the contest, and 30 teams from each division reached the semifinals.

"We competed against teams from 27 countries and our education at Purdue, and specifically Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, really shined," said Gupta, a Krannert School of Management student from Carmel, Ind. "Purdue provided us with technical and business guidance as well as an environment that fostered creativity and pushed us to do our best."

Through RollOut Green, customers can create a pattern or specific floral preference from its website. Products are shipped within a week. After the garden spot is prepped, the flower sheet is covered with soil and water added. RollOut Green's sheet, which includes fertilizers and seeds, also can trap moisture within the sheet to enhance seed germination.

"The caliber of our students and the value of Purdue's multidisciplinary approach to entrepreneurship education are exemplified in this team," said Nathalie Duval-Couetil, director of Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and associate director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park. "Great business opportunities emerge when you bring together very motivated students with strong communication skills and diverse technical and management backgrounds."

Gupta said the Purdue students had met every Friday night for a year, preparing for entrepreneurship competitions. That continued in Hong Kong. Facing teams from Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins, the Purdue team spent six hours the night before the finals in a nearby auditorium to hone their presentation.

"We were never entirely focused on just being better than the competition, we simply did our best and let the results land where they may," Gupta said. "We are very fortunate to have all been involved with Purdue."

Added Ang: "We had the opportunity to meet with multiple CEOs and chairmen of large corporations. It was an opportunity of a lifetime, networking with top industrial leaders as well as future leaders of the world."

In February, Rollout Green claimed the $5,000 third prize in the undergraduate division at the 24th annual Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition, a $100,000 event in Discovery Park.

Gupta also claimed the $1,000 top prize in the undergraduate category at the fifth annual Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition in April for his pitch about Dentural, which is developing an environmentally friendly, biodegradable soy-based denture adhesive.

The same Dentural team of Ang, Barron, Gupta and Taleyarkhan took first place in March at the 2011 Student Soybean Product Innovation Competition sponsored by Indiana Soybean Alliance.

With the momentum from these wins, particularly the global competition in Hong Kong, Gupta said, RollOut Green is working with Purdue officials to patent and license one of its technologies.

"This was our team's fourth win, including three at Purdue-specific competitions, all in the last four months," Gupta said. "Through these, we've been able to take our ideas further. We received critical feedback and attention from venture capitalists who reached out to us as well as companies interested in licensing our technology. Because of this, we're receiving positive feedback from Purdue toward patenting and commercializing our developments with an interested buyer."

Assisting the team with technical advice and financial support were Nathan Mosier, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue; Stroh Brann, a continuing lecturer for the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program; civil engineering professor Larry Nies; and Charlotte Erdmann, an associate professor of library science.

Duval-Couetil said the PolyU and the Collegiate Entrepreneurship Opportunities Program, which is funded by the Lilly Endowment, also provided financial assistance for the students to compete in this international event,

Winners at the PolyU Global Student Challenge 2011 each received a cash prize, a trophy and a certificate during a dinner and reception on June 16 at The Mira Hong Kong. Iolani School, a  K-12 college preparatory school in Honolulu, Hawaii, won the Secondary School Division.

The PolyU Innovation and Entrepreneurship Global Student Challenge was launched in 2010 as a major initiative to embrace internationalization, innovation and entrepreneurship. The student proposals were grouped in the subthemes of Health and Wellness, Lifestyle, Environment and Sustainability, Corporate Social Responsibility-Social Enterprise, and others.

Judging was based on four criteria: innovation and creativity, technical soundness, organizational plan and management structure and projection of financial performance. Teams were judged on their presentations, time management and performance during the Q&A session.

Teams that advanced to the finals also produced a 60-second video for their business products/services in the format of an elevator pitch. The video was broadcast during the semifinals, finals and the gala ceremony as part of the event's closing.

PolyU 2011 competition sponsors were Dr. Margaret Choi Lee Wai-lai, Chevalier Group, The Mira Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Hong Kong Dragon Airlines Ltd., and the International Strategic Technology Alliance.

A team from Johns Hopkins University won the PolyU 2010 competition.

Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu  

Sources: Ankit Gupta, 317-258-4538, ankit@purdue.edu

                   Alvin Ang, alvinangbs@gmail.com

                   David Barron, ddbarron@purdue.edu

                   Manaz Taleyarkhan, manaz@purdue.edu

                   Nathalie Duval-Couetil, 765-494-7068, natduval@purdue.edu

Related websites:
Global Student Challenge 2011 video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oueVy394zXk&feature=player_embedded

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