sealPurdue News

March 7, 2000

Sensing victory, techno entrepreneurs present a winner

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A team of two Krannert Graduate School of Management students and a physics professor won the 13th Annual Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition at Purdue University on Saturday (3/4).

The winners pocketed $20,000 for their presentation on bringing to market their product prototype, a microscopic oxygen sensor with a myriad of potential commercial applications.

"The competition was tough, and even many of the teams that did not make it to the finals presented very credible plans," said Shailendra R. Mehta, Purdue's director of entrepreneurship and business outreach. "In fact, the judges commented on how good all the plans were."

The Krannert students on the team are Derek M. Fetzer and Rene A. Yamin. Purdue physics professor Michael W. McElfresh, who with graduate student Mark Brazier made the initial scientific breakthrough that led to the development of the prototype oxygen-sensing device, is the senior member. Fetzer and Yamin presented a marketing and business plan for product development that projects sales of 30 million of the devices and a corporate net value of $70 million in five years.

While oxygen sensors are now widely used in industry and cars, the prototype devices' small size and room-temperature operation make medical application the most promising and potentially profitable market. Oxygen sensors are necessary in such basic operations as blood tests and anesthesia, and they also have potential for in vivo (inside the body) use for a host of diagnostic procedures.

"We spent almost a year taking basic data and extrapolating it to build what ultimately became our business plan," Fetzer said. "We believe we have the best of all possible worlds for a start-up business – a product that offers superior value at a much lower price than similar existing products."

Fetzer, Yamin and McElfresh are the principals in the fledgling enterprise dubbed Solid Strategies Inc. In addition to the prize money, Solid Strategies will receive office space in the Purdue Research Park and access to strategic, legal and business resources to make the venture commercially successful.

Two computer engineering undergraduates, Joseph F. Warmelink and Jason M. Wash, both from Crown Point, Ind., came in second with NyteFyre, a computer-based speech recognition system that they plan to market to hospitals, physicians and attorneys.

Third place went to a team of students for Med Buddy, a wireless computing device designed to reduce potentially fatal medical errors and improve and computerize medical recordkeeping. The principals of Dendria Networks Inc. are Michael J. Gerhold, Elizabeth A. Pang, Sea Chen, Saba Anvery, Sohail Hashmi and Han-Chung Lin.

A team of engineering students and James J. Solberg, a professor of industrial engineering, placed fourth with, a software product designed to analyze manufacturing processes using computer modeling and simulation.

The fifth-place prize went to a team made up Sung-Chan Jo, a doctoral candidate in chemistry who developed an optical fingerprint-recognition system, and Robert Yan, a master's degree student in the Krannert Graduate School. Their product is an "intelligent house," with all appliances and security devices run by a central Internet-based management system.

The competition is sponsored by Purdue alumnus and entrepreneur Burton D. Morgan, the Krannert School of Management, the Purdue Schools of Engineering and the School of Science. In addition to the $20,000 first-place prize, there is a $5,000 second prize, a $2,000 third prize, a $1,000 fourth-place prize and a $500 fifth-place prize. Both finalist and nonfinalist teams are eligible for support and expertise to bring their products to market.

Judges for the competition were James C. Anderson, general partner of Foundation Capital in Menlo Park, Calif.; Scott Jones, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Escient Inc., in Carmel, Ind.; John C. Aplin, general manager of CID Equity Partners in Indianapolis; Donald W. Feddersen, general partner of Charles River Associates and Bessemer Venture Partners in Wellesley Hills, Mass.; Tom Hiatt, managing director of Midwest Venture Capital Partners in Indianapolis; Robert C. Reiling Jr., partner of Reiling, Teder & Schrier, Attorneys at Law; and Robert B. McDonald of McDonald Enterprises in Lafayette.

Sources: Shailendra R. Mehta, (765) 494-5703;

Derek M. Fetzer, (765) 497-4483;

Rene A. Yamin, (765) 494-0696,

Writer: Mike Lillich, (765) 494-2077;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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