Last week, the Great Room of the University of Nevada, Reno Joe Crowley Student Union was filled with students, faculty members, mentors and members of the business community, many of whom seemed a bit on edge. They were all waiting to hear which student entrepreneurial teams had been selected as this year’s finalists in the University of Nevada, Reno’s Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition, which awards a grand prize of $50,000 to help the students bring their business ideas to fruition in the real world.
College of Business Dean Greg Mosier thanked Rick Sontag, the alumnus whose generous gift created the competition last year, along with the many faculty members at the College who help put the competition together and run it, including Dave Croasdell, the Charles and Ruth Hopping Professor of Entrepreneurship and Sontag Competition coordinator, and Daniel Herr, graduate research assistant in the College of Business.
Herr and Croasdell then took over, with Croasdell thanking the 34 judges – faculty members and volunteers from the business community – who had participated in reviewing the 24 preliminary business overviews submitted by student teams this year.
“These judges took a great deal of time reviewing these proposals and providing comments on them,” Croasdell said. “That feedback will be very valuable to these students, even if they aren’t chosen as finalists in this competition.”
Then, each team was called before the group to give 30-second pitches about their proposed businesses. Students represented a variety of colleges across campus, including the Colleges of Business, Education, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Science, and the School of Medicine.
Some exciting additions were then announced for this year’s competition. An additional gift from the Monroe-Shuler Foundation has allowed the competition to award each finalist team $1,000 this year. The finalists are to use the funds to “prove out” their business concepts in preparation for the submission of their final business plans due Feb. 15 and the oral presentations they will give Feb. 22. The Monroe-Shuler Foundation gift has also allowed the competition to provide a second place prize of $5,000 this year. The grand prize and second place teams will be announced at the awards presentation in early March.
The following five teams have been named finalists in the 2013 Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition:
- ElectroVentures, Inc. (EVI) specializes in products for the $4 billion electronic dance music industry. EVI currently operates an e-commerce site that sells clothing and accessories for music festivals, concerts and raves. The company plans on being the number one company in the electronic dance music market by having the freshest product offerings and multiple revenue streams, including an e-commerce site, scaled vending operations selling products at events across the nation, and a complete media department to create original content.
- Envirohaven manufacturers a self-sustaining, efficiently designed permanent home, easily assembled anywhere. The simple structural design solves extremely complex problems for people who are required or desire to live without access to public utilities.
- EscaZyme Biochemicals is a specialized chemical company that manufactures component chemicals for use in the insect-control industry. EscaZyme produces through a new process discovered by researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Because of this new process, the chemicals are produced faster, cheaper and with higher purity than processes currently in use.
- The Mental Health Hub’s objective is to build a website that will allow access to evidence-based mental health information that directs the public toward electronic health treatment information, provides a directory and rating of therapists, and also supplies an electronic heath record for providers. Mental health care plays a large role in the promotion of an efficient health care system and has been trailing behind primary care in promoting quality care. Currently, an internet-based electronic resource that provides the tools necessary to promote quality mental health care to both the public and provider does not exist.
- TERRANAMIC is a cutting-edge mining consulting start-up equipped with innovative tools to improve overall mine employee safety and health while reducing operating costs. Ten years of development and millions of dollars of investments in the advanced Integrated Parameter Computational Fluid Dynamics (IPCFD) modeling algorithm has allowed the company to view transient simulations of airflow systems and contaminant dissipation of turbulent flow in any confined environment with great accuracy. The technology improves efficiency by up to 35 percent measured in cost reduction while increasing overall employee safety.
The Technology Transfer Office at the University is assisting several of the teams, as the office helps those involved with science- and technology-related research and entrepreneurial efforts learn how to engage with the business community. Sontag, the competition’s founder, was actually a physics major at the University who realized he enjoyed entrepreneurship more than he enjoyed doing the actual science. In giving the gift, he said, “I hope this encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in Nevada’s students and drives them to want to succeed, no matter the cost. So many times, opportunities are sitting in front of us that only require the decision to do them.”