Spero Energy, Guarders take top spots at 28th annual Purdue Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition

February 19, 2015  

Biz plan spero

Doctoral students Ian Klein in chemistry, left, and Barron Hewetson, in agricultural and biological engineering, deliver their winning business plan presentation on Spero Energy Inc. during the 28th annual Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition in the Gold Division for graduate students. Spero is advancing pioneer technology for manufacturing high-value renewable chemicals from biomass for use in the flavoring and fragrance as well as energy industries. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Companies advancing a technology to make provider high-value renewable chemicals from biomass and a novel undergarment for women to carry personal information were the top winners Tuesday (Feb. 17) at Purdue University's $100,000 Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition.

The business plan presented on Spero Energy Inc. by Ian Klein and Barron Hewetson took the $30,000 top prize in the Gold Division for graduate students at the 28th annual event, which was held in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park. Spero is developing a one-step selective lignin conversion technology that could revolutionize the biorefinery industry.

Guarders, led by apparel design and technology major Rachel Box of Carmel, won the $20,000 first prize among the five finalists in the Black Division, which is limited to undergraduate students. Her company is developing a shapewear garter with integrated pockets for women to unobtrusively carry their phone, key, credit card, identification and other belongings.

"This is one of my favorite days of the year to see these 10 student-led teams present their business ideas for how they hope to change the world one company at a time," said Joseph Pekny, interim director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. "I'm amazed at the quality of the business plans and the caliber of the presentations - from creativity and focus of the undergraduate students to the ingenuity and viability of those offered by the graduate students. And, fortunately, they all finish the day as winners with prize money to advance their business ideas."

Biz plan guarders

Rachel Box, an apparel design and technology major, took Black Division top honors for Guarders, which is developing a shapewear garter with pockets integrated in its inseam to give women the ability to unobtrusively carry their phone, key, credit cards, ID and other personal belongings. The 28th annual Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition on Tuesday (Feb. 17) featured 10 finalists in two divisions, narrowed from an initial 85 applicants since November. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) 
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The winners were announced at a reception following a day of presentations by students from colleges ranging from agriculture and engineering to biology, chemistry and finance. Richard Cosier, dean emeritus and the Leeds Professor of Management at Purdue's Krannert School of Management, delivered the keynote at the awards dinner.

In addition to the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, primary sponsors for the competition were the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Krannert School of Management, The Anvil, Purdue Foundry, Ice Miller LLP and Purdue Research Park.

Spero also receives $5,000 worth of in-kind services from law firm Ice Miller LLP, incubator space in Purdue Technology Center from the Purdue Foundry, a one-year membership in The Anvil co-working space, and one free registration in the 2015 Applied Management Principles (AMP) certificate program valued at $4,995 from Krannert.

As the Black Division winner, Guarders also receives one free registration in the 2015 AMP certificate program.

Runner-up in the Gold Division was PurSpec Technologies Inc. (presented as BioMS), which received $15,000 for its concept to minimize the cost and time of clinical chemical testing by creating a portable and self-sustainable analytical instrument. The presenter was biomedical engineering student Yue Ren. PurSpec Technologies also receives $3,000 worth of in-kind services from Ice Miller and a one-year membership in The Anvil.

AccuPS, a project led by electrical engineering student Mohit Singh, received $7,500 for third, plus $2,000 worth of in-kind services from Ice Miller and a one-year membership in The Anvil. AccuPS is working on a 3-D human-computer user interface device that can pair with a Bluetooth-enabled device for integrating family-oriented entertainment systems.

Finalists in the Gold Division and receiving $3,750 each were Neuro Vigor, a company led by Krannert MBA student Bayu Daryant developing a generic drug for treating multiple sclerosis; and Skyepack, led by political science and public relations student Gabriel Sachs, offering a Web and mobile technology platform and instructional design services that enable schools, departments and faculty members to transition course materials away from high-priced textbooks to materials delivered through this platform at a price of $10-$20.

In the Black Division, MSE Ballistics, led by Rachel Stone and Juan Rivera, finished second and received $10,000. The team is developing a materials solution to render an airborne projectile non-lethal to bystanders outside its intended range by decomposing into harmless powder.

Food for Thought, a concept led by Jacob Baird that is developing a way to process sweet corn the natural way and freeze it in its own juice, was third, garnering $5,000.

Receiving $2,500 each as finalists were Tres D Café, a 3-D printing and coffee shop in Colombia led by mechanical engineering student Valeria Ruiz; and Social Profile Evaluator, a software product designed by engineering student Kartik Ancha to help prospective students, employees and others present a professional online presence.

The competition process started last fall with 85 initial submissions, said Cliff Wojtalewicz, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center.  The final 10 teams were selected by a group of judges after two rounds of screening.

Those teams, five each in the Black and Gold divisions, then presented to a separate panel of 13 judges on Tuesday. Panel judges ranged in diversity from intellectual property attorneys and venture capitalists to small business owners and an associate dean from Saudi Arabia. Each team has 20 minutes for its presentation and 10 minutes for questions from judges.

In 2014, Bearing Analytics, a company now called DATTUS that is developing an analytics sensor for predicting bearing failure in machinery, won $30,000 as the top presenter in the Gold Division. ExDie Cleaning Technologies, which is developing a method for removing excess material during the aluminum extrusion process, claimed the $20,000 first prize in the Black Division.

The Purdue entrepreneurship competition started in 1987 with an endowment gift from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which also funded the $7 million, 31,000-square-foot Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park.

The Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, through its sponsored initiatives and partnerships - including the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Technology Realization Program, Entrepreneurial Leadership Academy and business plan competitions - aims to stimulate entrepreneurship at Purdue and serves as a state, regional and national resource.

The center also houses Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub that opened in 2013 to provide assistance in areas such as product ideation and market analysis as well as business-plan development, alumni and faculty mentoring, and help in finding funding.   

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

Sources: Joe Pekny, 765-426-7186, pekny@purdue.edu

Ian Klein, iklein@purdue.edu

Rachel Box, rbox@purdue.edu

Cliff Wojtalewicz, 765-496-3961, cliffw@purdue.edu

Bambrah Walker, 765-494-1335, bambrah@purdue.edu  

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