Research Foundation News

May 7, 2019

Pair of Purdue student startups among finalists in International Business Model Competition

BDM event Seba Kaakeh (right) a junior in biochemistry, gives a pitch during the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition earlier this year 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 and FlykeART are finalists in the International Business Model Competition. Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Two Purdue University  student startups, FlykeART and Global Sign, are finalists in the International Business Model Competition, which will be held Thursday and Friday at Brigham Young University.

The International Business Model Competition, an annual global competition, is open to student entrepreneurs around the world.  

“This will provide us with a valuable experience. We get to go out there in the real world in front of real audiences and demonstrate what our idea is,” said Juan Pablo Mascaretti, a FlykeART team member and a senior seeking degrees in both the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and economics in the Krannert School of Management. “We’ll be judged based on our abilities, and we’ll get to learn how real businesses work. It’s a good way for us to learn and develop.”

FlykeART is developing a lighter, smart cart for commercial airlines that reduces operating costs while improving customer service by analyzing big data and identifying customer preferences. Ultimately, the FlykeART cart can help airlines to save millions of dollars in fuel costs annually.

Global Sign is a student startup that created a platform to make content more accessible to people who are deaf or have limited hearing through use of American Sign Language. A video about Global Sign is available here.

“We take what we learn from each competition, implement the feedback and compete again. This project has come a long way, since the first competition. We are excited to discover our new and necessary pivots after this competition,” said Heya Kaakeh, a Global Sign founder and a senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering. 

The two Purdue teams have competed in multiple competitions through the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, which is sponsoring the teams’ trips, and also have participated in coaching sessions and workshops facilitated by the center to help them prepare for the international competition.

Global Sign took first place in the Burton D. Morgan Center’s Business Model Competition in the Social Entrepreneurship track in February, as well as winning the Schurz Innovation Challenge in March. FlykeART won the The Anvil’s Boiler Demo Day competition, took second in the Schurz Innovation Challenge and third in the Business Model Competition business-to-business track.

Purdue University was selected to receive a bye into the finals. FlykeART was awarded that berth.

“So far the International BMC has been amazing in helping set the path for us so that we can really structure and organize our thoughts and present it. It really helps us to be able to present our ideas in an organized matter,” said Yuhan Roh, a FlykeART team member a senior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics who also has have taken entrepreneurship courses through the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Purdue.

Global Sign applied to the competition through a highly competitive at-large round and was selected as a finalist.  

“We are looking forward to meeting a global community where all of us share the collective goal of doing something new and changing the world. We couldn’t be more excited to pitch, receive feedback, and hopefully meet some new mentors,” Kaakeh said.

Teams in the competition are assessed based on their entrepreneurial process and the execution of their plan. This includes the research and testing that was done in the development of their business plan, as well as the result of their work.

The other FlykeART team members are Juan Sebastian Ramirez, a senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering; Federico Brandt, a  junior in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Jose Valbuena, a computer science junior in the College of Science; Ignacio Lay, a supply chain management junior in the Polytechnic Institute; and Yibo Fan, a computer graphics technology graduate student in the Polytechnic Institute.

The other Global Sign team members are Yasmeen Hafeez, a senior in the Krannert School of Management; and Seba Kaakeh, a biochemistry junior in the College of Agriculture.

The competition receives thousands of applicants annually. 

Each finalist will receive at least a $2,500 cash prize out of the $200,000 in prizes available. The prize for the first-place winner is $40,000.

About the 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: Zeina Kayyali,

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

Sources: Juan Pablo Mascaretti,

Yuhan Roh,

Heya Kaakeh,

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