Research Foundation News

March 6, 2019

Eight Purdue student startups win more than $110,000 in cash, contributions at Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition

BDM competition Seba Kaakeh (right) a junior in biochemistry, gives a pitch during the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition while Yasmeen Hafeez (left) a senior in the Krannert School of Management, looks on. Kaakeh and Hafeez are part of the Global Sign startup, which works to encourage governments, schools and companies to make their video content sign language accessible to the deaf. Global Sign won the $15,000 first prize in the social entrepreneurship category and $5,000 for social innovation. (Purdue Research Foundation image/ Yuqing (Nick) Wang) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Eight Purdue University student startups earned a total of $83,500 in cash prizes and another $30,000 in in-kind donations during the 32nd annual Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition.

The competition, held Feb. 22, promoted student entrepreneurship through five months of business model workshops. The competition featured categories ranging from business-to-business to social entrepreneurship.

“We encourage the student entrepreneurs to go out and talk to customers,” said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. “It is the best way to find out if there is a demand for a new business and introduces students to new approaches they will use in the future.”

The competition also included workshops, seminars, and training provided for participants by different organizations across Purdue University, including the Purdue Foundry entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator and the Krannert School of Management, which sponsored the event along with the Burton D. Morgan Foundation.

First-place winner was SnapWire, which is developing a way for people to manage their cables and wires for electronics with ease. The startup received $20,000 in the business-to-business category of the competition.

In the social entrepreneurship category, Global Sign, which works to encourage governments, schools and companies to make their video content sign language accessible to the deaf, won the $15,000 first prize and a $5,000 prize for social innovation by the family of Rick Li of WYRE Inc.

BDM competition2 Judges Rick Li, Diana Hancock and Norm Hedges listen intently to pitches in the Social Entrepreneurship track during the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition. (Purdue Research Foundation image/ Yuqing (Nick) Wang) Download image

In the business-to-business competition, Opsus, which proposes using computer vision to help shopping centers tailor the shopping experience to meet the needs of tenants and customers, took the $15,000 second prize. FlykeArt, which is developing a smart galley cart system that allows airlines to empower passengers to customize their in-flight, finished third and won $7,500. FlykeArt, also won a $1,000 award for having the most diverse team based on gender, ethnicity and school major. RightFit, which is working on an intelligent, evidence-driven solution that enables health care facilities to achieve higher-quality care through personalized patient-physician matching, finished fourth and earned $2,500.

In social entrepreneurship, StemNode, a methods and equipment-sharing platform for research laboratories that enables users to make, map and maintain experimental protocols, as well as lend and borrow related equipment between labs, took the $10,000 second prize.

Greeks for Good, a hazing, alcohol abuse and college sexual assault prevention program for students involved with fraternity and sorority organization, received $5,000 for its third-place finish.

Engineering for Social Good, which is creating engineering education kits aimed at accelerating the adoption and diffusion of cutting-edge technology in displaced communities, finished fourth and took home $2,500.

The competition began in October with 49 teams involving 109 students. Twenty-nine teams pitched in the preliminary round in January and eight teams advanced to the finals. The Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition this year partnered with the International Business Model Competition, giving a team from Purdue a spot in the 40-team competition to be held in Provo, Utah, on May 9-10 . The Purdue team has not yet been selected.

The Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition has awarded $1.9 million in total cash prize money since its inception in 1987. In the past five years, three people taking part in the competition have been named to Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Sponsors offering in-kind awards were Heath CPA, Ice Miller LLP, Gutwein Law, Indiana University Mauer School of Law Intellectual Property Law Clinic, The Anvil, Purdue Railyard and MatchBOX co-working spaces and the Krannert School of Management.

About Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship

Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship is Purdue University’s gateway for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. It houses a number of programs and competitions for student and faculty entrepreneurs designed to encourage innovation and discover big ideas that have potential to benefit society. The Burton D. Morgan Center works closely with the Purdue Foundry and Purdue Ventures to enhance the university’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and to provide meaningful access to capital and talent for Purdue entrepreneurs. The center also houses the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program,  which is administered through Purdue’s Office of the Provost, and is the primary vehicle for delivering entrepreneurship education to over 1,800 students across campus each year.

Writer: Tom Coyne, 765-588-1044,

Sources: Arnold Chen,

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