Nevada's entrepreneurial students shine in competitions across the region
The University’s Envirohaven team was named a finalist in three student business competitions last month. Left to right: College of Business Dean Greg Mosier, Adair Melendez, Vicki Bischoff, University President Marc Johnson, Clint Borchard, Manpreet Kaur and Shaun Cameron. Photo courtesy of Michael Okimoto, Jeff Ross Photography and NCET.
April was quite a month for a number of University of Nevada, Reno student entrepreneurial teams.
It began on April 2, when six finalists were named in the University's first-ever Sontag Entrepreneurship Award Competition, which awards a winner-take-all grand prize of about $50,000 to help the students bring their business ideas to fruition in the real world. Students will find out who the lucky winner is on May 9.
Two days after the Sontag Award finalists were named, finalists in the statewide Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition were named, and 13 of the 18 finalist teams were from Nevada. Two weeks later, three of the seven awards given at the Governor's Cup Awards Dinner went to Nevada teams.
Finally, three of the University's student entrepreneurial teams has also advanced to the final round of the First Look West (FLoW) competition, one of six regional business plan competitions for clean energy sponsored by a $2 million Department of Energy program.
College of Business Dean Greg Mosier told a crowd gathered in Lawlor Events Center April 2 that 35 teams had submitted preliminary business plans to enter the Sontag Entrepreneurship Award Competition. The competition was funded by a $1 million gift to the University from alumnus Rick Sontag in September.
"We received very high-quality proposals from the students overall," he said, "with students from various colleges and disciplines participating. The committee finally narrowed it down to six finalists."
Each of the six finalist teams had to submit a complete written business plan by April 27. They will give oral presentations on May 4, with the winner being announced May 9. The six finalist teams are:
- BoxFeeds, which plans to encourage breweries to focus on sustainability by converting waste products from the brewing process to viable products for other markets. Team members include Kelsey Plank, Zachary Karmiol, Morgan Vonnahme Brannon Orr, Arianna Rosen and Bradley Moakler.
- Entropy Fuel Systems, which plans to reshape the direction and progress of ethanol production in the United States and around the world. Keaton W. Cooley-Rieders is the sole team member.
- Envirohaven, which plans to revolutionize the "green" housing industry by manufacturing self-contained, energy producing and efficiently designed home packages that can be easily assembled anywhere. Team members include Clint Borchard, Vicki Bischoff, Manpreet Kaur, Shaun Cameron and Adair Melendez.
- Grabitech, which plans to manufacture, package and distribute the Tag n' Grab notification system: software and hardware designed to aid consumers in keeping track of their personal belongings. Team members include Justin Yang, Felicia Groso, James Malone, Victor Morrow and Cho Yu Chong.
- Mining Environmental Technology and Services (METS), which plans to develop, produce and market optical instruments to detect potentially harmful airborne particulates in mining work places. Team members include David Karr, Bryan Rainwater, Ben Sumlin and Heather Zunino.
- Modphalt Green Asphalt Technology, which plans to encapsulate ground tire rubber (GTR) particles with a polymer to create a solution in the asphalt roofing industry. Team members include Brett Shaffner, Chelsea Hejny, James Eckvahl and Wesley Clary.
The University's Modphalt team, left to right: College of Business Dean Greg Mosier, Brett Schaffner, James Eckvahl and Chelsea Hejny (not pictured: Wesley Clary)
Students selected as finalists by the judging committee, which was comprised of business professionals and University faculty, hail from a variety of disciplines, including those in the College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science. Dave Croasdell, associate professor of information systems at the University, served on the judging committee and was part of the team who put together the rules and structure of this year's inaugural competition.
"We had a lot of really good proposals," he said. "The six finalists we chose were ones who we think really have a shot at generating jobs and affecting Nevada's economy. Part of what they have to do is show us how they plan to use the prize money in the next three years to execute their plan. The ideas presented go beyond creating a business plan. We believe each of the finalists has a real shot of translating their proposal into a viable business."
Many of the finalists incorporate sustainability or energy-saving practices, such as Modphalt, the team working to create a solution in the asphalt roofing industry.
"Instead of the incinerating the rubber from tires, we'll be able to grind it up and recycle it and use it in our roofing product," said team member James Eckvahl, a senior general studies major. "No one else has been able apply this type of technology to the roofing industry."
The Envirohaven team's product is all about energy saving and efficiency.
"We have the first sustainable home package that is complete with an energy generation system to live free from public utilities - gas and electric," said team member Clint Borchard, a senior majoring in management. "We will manufacture it and assemble it for residential, business and government customers."
The final proposals submitted by the six innovative teams will be judged by the board of directors of the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, a state-funded organization founded to spur capital investment and job creation in Nevada, which is chaired by State Treasurer Kate Marshall. In presenting the finalists, Dean Mosier expressed his gratitude for the involvement of many in the community and state, beyond faculty on campus.
"We think we have everyone at the table in this competition — investors, faculty, entrepreneurs — who can make this a meaningful competition with potential to help students put their knowledge and creativity to work in the real world," he said. "That is exactly what Rick Sontag intended when he gave us the generous gift for this program," Mosier said.
Just two days after the Sontag Award finalists were named, 13 student teams from the University of Nevada, Reno were among the 18 teams named as finalists in the statewide Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition, presented by Nevada's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NCET). The University has historically fared well in the competition, now in its eighth year, garnering 15 of the 23 awards presented at the competition over the previous three years.
This year, the student teams from the University of Nevada, Reno named as finalists were:
- In the graduate student category, Fernley Fuels, LLC, Go Fish! and TexDocs
- In the undergraduate student category, Deep End, Envirohaven, Millennial Marketing Group, LLC, and thecollegefishbowl.com
- In the Lt. Governor's Award category, all of the finalists are from the University of Nevada Reno, including Deep End, Envirohaven, Fernley Fuels LLC, Go Fish!, Golden Ops LLC and WaterMule
Prizes in the competition include $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 going to the first-, second- and third-place winners, respectively, in the graduate and undergraduate competition, and $10,000 going to the team that receives the Lt. Governor's Award, presented to the business plan that best employs clean, renewable or efficient energy technologies and services.
After the customary drum rolls played out at the Governor's Cup Awards Dinner at the Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno on April 18, Master of Ceremonies Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki had presented three more awards to University of Nevada, Reno teams. In the undergraduate category, Envirohaven took first place, and Deep End took third place. In addition, Envirohaven received the Lt. Governor's Award. Before the student team awards were presented, Alan Fuchs, chair of the University's Chemical and Materials Engineering department, received one of only two Faculty Advisor Awards presented at the event, for his support of student teams over the last several years.
Since Envirohaven took first place in the undergraduate category, they will travel to Las Vegas where they will compete with students from Oklahoma and Arkansas in the Tri-State Donald W. Reynolds Cup May 22 - 24.
Finally, three University of Nevada, Reno teams also advanced to the third and final round in the First Look West (FLoW) Competition, one of six regional business plan competitions for clean energy sponsored by a $2 million Department of Energy program. Envirohaven, Modphalt and BoxFeeds were among about 30 teams in the West to make it to the final round, April 30 - May 1. Although they didn't come away with first, second or third prize, they were happy to have advanced to the final round and deemed it a good opportunity to get more valuable feedback from venture capitalists and investors.