Research Foundation News

January 15, 2019

Purdue students acquire entrepreneurial skills, prepare to vie for $100,000 in startup competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Thirty-three teams of Purdue University students will be vying Wednesday (Jan. 16) to earn a spot in the final round of the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition, where a total of $115,000 in prize money will be awarded by a panel of alumni with entrepreneurial backgrounds.

“The goal of the competition is to give students an opportunity to develop and improve business and entrepreneurship skills not only for this competition, but for the rest of their professional careers,” said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. “We have several past participants who have created successful startups through this program.”

Recent successful student startups that originated from this program include Adranos Inc. and Heliponix LLC. Additionally, in the last five years, three winners from the competition were named in Forbes 30 under 30: Anurag Garg in 2014 from Dattus, previously named Bearing Analytics, Ian Klein in 2015 from Spero Energy; and Ian Hamilton in 2018 from Atlas Energy Systems.

The competition, which is co-sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Center and Purdue’s Krannert School of Management, is an opportunity for students to pitch their unique ideas and projects and learn to use their business skills. Over the 31 years this competition has been held, a total of $1.9 million has been awarded. This year’s program started in October with more than a 100 students taking part in sessions about value proposition, how to reach and interview customers and how to raise capital and make money. 

The teams will be competing for the 12 spots in the finals at the event. The finals will take place Feb. 22, where a panel of judges will determine the winners.

The judges include Julie Wainwright, a Purdue alumna and CEO and founder of the luxury resale website The RealReal. Wainwright also will give the keynote address at the finals. Other notable alumni joining Wainwright on the panel are Shireen Hafeez, founder of Deaf Kids Code; Stacey Burr, founder of Textronics, which in 2008 was purchased by Adidas; Bill Oesterle, a founder of Angi; and Adam Weinstein, founder of Cursor.

This year’s competition also included a special division for high school students. The high school track included 33 students in 10 teams from Jefferson High School and Central Catholic High School in Lafayette, Indiana. High school teams competed separately and have already presented their final pitches.

This year’s competition is made up of three categories: business to business, business to consumer, and social entrepreneurship.

Last year, Spirrow Therapeutics, a startup developing a novel treatment for a life-threatening lung condition known as acute respiratory distress syndrome, won the $25,000 prize in the open/big idea category. MediTrak Life, which uses devices to collect vital signs and other data to improve health conditions, won $15,000 in the small business category. Incas Diagnostics, which provides a diagnostic kit detecting multiple sexually transmitted diseases, won $15,000 in the social entrepreneurship category. 

About the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship

The Burton D. Morgan Center is the gateway for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. It houses a number of programs and competitions for student and faculty entrepreneurs. The Purdue Foundry, launched in 2013 by the Purdue Research Foundation to enhance the university’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, is housed here, along with Purdue Ventures, which provides and fosters meaningful access to capital and talent for Purdue entrepreneurs, and the Certificate for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. 

Writer: Zeina Kayyali,

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Tom Coyne, 765-588-1044,

Source: Arnold Chen, 765-494-9404,

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