Picking a Winner Among Winners
- by Matthew Brodsky
“We are used car salesmen.”
That was how Venkat Jonnala began the 10-minute presentation at the Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals for ZenKars, one of the “Great Eight” startup teams remaining.
And like good used car salesmen, it appears that Venkat and his partner Jean-Mathieu “Jim” Chabas could be convincing. They sold the BPC judges on their startup and became the Perlman Grand Prize Winners, which came with $30,000 and $15,000 in in-kind services.
Editor’s note: A funny coincidence happened on the day of the BPC Venture Finals. We were “shadowing” ZenKars as part of our “Student Entrepreneurs: Day in the Life” series. See the resulting video below:
Picking ZenKars was not an easy decision for the judges.
As judge David Cohen, CEO, chief investment officer and co-founder of Karlin Asset Management Inc., explained at the closing ceremony of this year’s BPC, “All eight finalists, the Great Eight, were all great.”
Cohen was joined on the judging panel by Maxine Gowen, WG’02, president & CEO of Trevena Inc.; Richard Perlman, W’68, founder and executive chairman of ExamWorks Group Inc. (and he whose name the Grand Prize bears); and Rich Riley, W’96, newly named CEO of Shazam.
Also enjoying the culminating event were Emily Cieri, managing director of Wharton Entrepreneurship, and Jill Anick, the associate director for Wharton Entrepreneurship who took over managing the Wharton BPC this year. Anick praised all of the BPC Finalists this year for demonstrating that they can execute on their business plans.
Luckily for the Great Eight, there was more than just the Perlman Grand Prize to take home.
For instance, ZenKars earned another distinction: the Committee Choice Award, given out by the student committee who helped Wharton Entrepreneurship run this year’s competition. The committee also gave out an award for “Most Social Venture” to TrustCircle and the “Most Disruptive Venture” to fashion crowdsourcer Top Trender.
Second place overall (and $15,000 and $15,000 in in-kind services) went to anti-glare eye technology firm MacuLens, and third place ($10,000 and $15,000 in in-kind services) to Top Trender.
The Gloeckner Undergrad Award ($10,000) went to AlphaX, an anti-inflammatory drugmaker.
And the Michelson People’s Choice Award ($3,000), voted on by the audience at the Venture Finals Elevator Pitch Competition, went to MacuLens.
Find full details about all of the Great Eight teams and their founders at the Wharton Business Plan Competition website.