WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., March 4 -- If the winners of Purdue University's 15th annual Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition have their way, their laser-based spectroscopy technology will test every pill doctors prescribe to their patients.
Monocle Technologies -- a team made up of two Purdue chemistry students and two Krannert School MBA candidates -- talked their way to the competition's $30,000 top prize in startup money during Thursday's event, which was judged by a panel of nine venture capitalists. 150 students prepared 54 business plans for this year's competition.
"Our product works like an eyeball to analyze the chemical makeup of pharmaceuticals as they come down the assembly line," said team member and MBA candidate Dan Carney. "Winning the competition gives us the ability to talk to potential investors. Ultimately, our vision is to make Monocle Technologies a long-term business success."
Other members of the Monocle Technologies team are George Laurence, a 2000 Purdue chemistry graduate; Larry Riggs, chemistry doctoral candidate; and Mark Sepeta, a Krannert School MBA candidate. All are from Lafayette.
Judges were John Aplin, comanaging general partner of CID Equity Partners in Indianapolis; Jim Anderson, founding partner of Foundation Capital and Legacy Ventures in Palo Alto, Calif.; Don N. Aquilano, managing director of Gazelle TechVentures in Indianapolis; Joseph E. DeGroff, partner in Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan and founding partner of the law firm's Strategic Advisors Group in Indianapolis; David Geliebter, founder of Carrot Capital in New York; Tim Hiatt, managing director of Centerfield Capital Partners L.P. in Indianapolis; Tim Schiegel, director of Blue Chip Venture Co. in Cincinnati; Teri Willey, partner in ARCH Development Partners in Chicago; Robert Zieserl, managing partner of KB Partners in Northbrook, Ill.
At the awards ceremony, Hiatt said he and his fellow judges ranked the team business plan presentations on the basis of "the comprehensiveness of the plans, the startup management team in place, the size of the potential market and the plan the teams had made to enter the market."
Team Kintan's, a franchise-based medical practice business service, won $12,000 for its overall third-place finish plus $5,000 for being named the top undergraduate team. Team members are Navin Barot, Kintan Brahmbhatt of Munster, Ind., and Gabriel Chaddock of Portage, Ind.
A new event in this year's competition was the "elevator pitch," in which participants give one-minute presentations of their business plans then have one minute to answer judges' questions. The Secure Brains team took the top elevator-pitch prize of $3,000 for its security device for wireless phones. Members of Secure Brains are Rajat Bhatt of the United Arab Emirates, Priyank Desai of Valparaiso, Ind., and Manan Relia of India.
"The Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition offers the serious startup funding it takes to turn ideas into products or services," Mehta said. "You might have the greatest gadget in the world, but if no one will buy it, you are out of luck."
In addition to the prize money, the top projects get reduced-price office space in the Purdue Research Park and access to consultants and other resources to help get the fledgling enterprises off the ground. The contestants have been working on their products, proposals and marketing plans since the beginning of fall semester.
All Purdue students can participate in the event. Nonstudents -- such as students from other colleges, Purdue alumni, faculty and local residents -- can also be team members, but Purdue students must make the final presentations to the judges.
Earning second place overall in the competition and winning $15,000 was the Matrix NMR team, whose plan was to provide nuclear magnetic resonance probes to analyze substances chemically. Mid IR Sensors, a medical device company, took fourth place and $10,000. Fifth place went to Zion, a company offering fast Internet access even at peak-usage times; for $7,000.
The competition is sponsored by Purdue alumnus and entrepreneur Burton D. Morgan, founder of six corporations and past president of Basic Service Co., an idea-development company; the Krannert School of Management; the Purdue Schools of Engineering; and the Purdue School of Science. Also sponsoring this year's competition was Ice Miller Donadio & Ryan. The law firm provided $10,000 in prize money and $10,000 worth of legal services.
Shailendra Mehta, director of the Krannert School Entrepreneurship Initiative, said the total prize money has gone up from $54,000 last year to $85,000, making the event the largest university-sponsored student entrepreneurism competition award in existence.