Wharton Picks a Winning Business Plan

Eight finalists competed in the University of Pennsylvania’s fourth annual Wharton Business Plan Competition last week. They presented their plans to a six-judge panel, hoping to win the $20,000 Grand Prize. Second place received $10,000 and third earned $5,000. Each of the three top teams also received $5,000 worth of legal services and $5,000 worth of accounting and strategy-consulting services.

First prize went to Infrascan, developer of a handheld device that it calls the HematoScope to detect brain bleeding. Second place was taken by CelfCure, which wants to harvest a patient’s stem cells, dose them with drugs, and then put the cells back into the patient to treat neurological problems such as head and spinal-cord injuries and stroke. Third prize went to BioSpecrum, which has developed a faster means of screening proteins that have a role in diseases.

This year’s competition involved almost 700 students from the University of Pennsylvania, including students in 10 of Penn’s 12 professional schools. The eight finalists were chosen from a field of nearly 200 teams. Any team that included a Penn student could participate. Other finalists presented plans for businesses ranging from space tourism to renewable energy to computer animation. No dotcom company made it to the finals.

This years judges were Bill Cadogan, general partner St. Paul Venture Capital; Jack Daly, vice president Principal Investment Area of Goldman Sachs; Jim Furnivall, general partner Canaan Partners; David Kronfeld, founder an chairman JK&B Capital; John Osher, entrepreneur; David Piacquad, vice president business development Johnson & Johnson; Andy Raskin senior editor Business 2.0; Dan Skaff founder and managing partner Sienna Ventures; and Salman Ullah general manager Microsoft Corporate Strategy Group.

The Wharton Business Plan Competition is managed by the Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs and a management committee comprised of students from throughout the University of Pennsylvania.

One problem: the “and Then There Was One” link at the bottom of Wharton’s web page announcing this year’s results went to a run down of last year’s winners at the time this was written.

There’s something to be learned when one of the world’s great business schools sponsors a business plan competition. Business schools are an often underused resource for those of us in the small business marketplace. Collectively, they probably have more active research underway on smaller enterprises than all the professional research firms and think tanks combined.

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