Swimming With Wharton’s ‘Sharks’
- by Matthew Brodsky
This was a year of firsts for the Wharton Business Plan Competition. It was the first year in the competition’s 14-year history that judges weighed in on as many as 152 ventures. It was the first year a People’s Choice Award was given to one finalist in part based on live, online audience voting. And it was the first year that the winning team was comprised of students from Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program (WEMBA).
RightCare Solutions—created by three members of the WEMBA Class of 2012, team leader Eric Heil, Mrinal Bhasker and Matt Tanzer—was awarded the $30,000 Michelson Grand Prize for developing an algorithmic solution to help hospitals identify patients at risk at discharge of being readmitted, based on research by Dr. Kathryn H. Bowles, associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.
Coming in second place in the event was 1DocWay, which designed a product that allows patients to make appointments and visit with doctors virtually. Calcula, a team developing novel medical devices for removing kidney stones, earned third place.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni in attendance at the event’s closing reception selected ChondroPro Biosciences—a group working on a new therapy for osteoarthritis—for the People’s Choice Award during their online, live voting.
For the first time, the competition also featured a Student Choice Award. One week before the Venture Finals, the eight finalists and the semi-finalists presented their businesses to classmates at the Battle of the Business Plans. The winner of this award—and $3,000—was QMagico, which strives to solve the problem of low-quality education in Brazil through online educational videos.
Another first: Two of eight finalists came out of Penn’s UPSTART program, one of them being the winners, RightCare Solutions, the other Graphene Frontiers. The UPSTART team maximizes the potential of University of Pennsylvania research by working with faculty, staff and students to develop a strategy around company formation to increase the value of the technology and give it valuable exposure in the marketplace, such as at the Wharton Business Plan Competition.
All eight finalists—which included the teams listed above, as well as Bounce Exchange and Grand Round Table—survived three preliminary phases of judging to make it to Phase IV, the Venture Finals, which took place on campus on April 25.
During the Venture Finals, each team had 20 minutes to present to and respond to questions from the elite panel of judges: Michael Burns, EE’95, GEE’95, W’95, managing partner of Alara Capital; David A. Cohen, president of Karlin Asset Management; Richard Perlman, W’68 , chairman of Compass Partners, LLC; and Santo Politi, WG’97, general partner at Spark Capital.
The Wharton Entrepreneurial Club launched the Wharton Business Plan Competition in 1998. Now part of Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, it is co-managed by a select group of students.