School of Business Awards Nearly $50,000 in 15th Annual Business Plan Competition
March 30, 2017
|David Gantt (left) and Chester Monteferting took first place in the
undergraduate student category for XIX Computing.
Ventures producing a high-performance computer with a water cooling system and an online portal to help high school student athletes obtain college scholarships have taken top honors in the 2017 University of Miami Business Plan Competition, hosted by the School of Business.
The competition winners, who took home a combined total of nearly $50,000 in first, second, third and other prizes, were announced March 30 following the final round of competition the same day.
David Gantt, an international finance and marketing major at the School of Business, and Chester Montefering, an industrial engineering major, won the Grand Prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for XIX Computing.
Their venture aims to produce a computer system with a water cooling system to better address the high-performance computing needs of the computer gaming industry.
|Kelly Pierce won first place in the
graduate student/alumni category
for Pierce Plan.
In the graduate student and alumni category, Kelly Pierce, who graduated in 2012 as a community and social change major, took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for her venture, Pierce Plan. It’s billed as the first SAAS LMS licensing and delivery model to automatically track academic requirements in real time to help high school student athletes more easily obtain scholarships to pay for college. Pierce also won the People’s Choice Award and $1,000.
Second Place in the undergraduate student category and $6,000 went to Dylan Cohen, a biology major, for Frest, a hand-held device and mobile application that facilitates contact information exchange. Cohen also won the Best Presentation Award and $2,000 in the same category.
Second Place in the graduate student and alumni category and $6,000 went to Thomas R. Byrd Jr. and Jason S. Keasler, both 2016 MBA graduates from the School of Business, along with Joe Rjeili, for VarDragons, a reality mobile game that turns airplanes into dragons through mobile devices.
Third Place in the undergraduate student category and $4,000 went to Nelly Sudri, an advertising management major and Lauren Peaslee, a public relations major, for Sobe Media Group. It’s a Miami-based social media marketing agency aimed at helping brands increase their social media reach.
Third Place in the graduate student and alumni category and $4,000 went to Josh Fu, who graduated from the School of Business in 2010 as an international finance and marketing major, for Haathi Cloth. The venture aims to produce modern, comfortable and machine-washable kurtas, an outfit worn at Indian weddings and dance competitions.
|Dylan Cohen won second place in the
undergraduate student category for Frest.
An honorable mention and $1,000 was presented in the undergraduate student category to Don Sirivat, an engineering major, and Kevin Fich, a computer science major, for Cleanswipe, a mobile payment platform for scheduling laundry appointments. The honorable mention in the graduate student and alumni category went to Marcella McCarthy, who graduated in 2005 as an English major, for Skillied, a web platform where schools and other institutions can list their local classes and people can book a seat.
The 2017 Business Plan Competition started last fall when 81 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. From those submissions, 31 semifinalist teams prepared business plans and were then presented to the judges on March 29. Four winners in each of the two categories were then named to compete in the final round on March 30, with the winners named shortly afterward.
The competition sponsors included Sean Goldstein, The Gomberg Family, The Heffner Family, JES Global Capital Partners, The Nunez Family, and Oscar Callejas. Now in its 15th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni.
Past winners in the competition have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television's “Shark Tank.”
|Thomas Byrd (left), Jason Keasler (right) and Joe Rjelli (not pictured) took second place in the graduate student/alumni category for VarDragons.
In addition to the three top prizes and honorable mentions in each category, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,000 was presented to Benjamin Leis, who graduated in 2004 as a broadcast journalism major, for Comic Cure. The venture uses the unifying power of laughter to uplift and engage communities around important causes.
The Best Presentation Award and $2,000 in the graduate student and alumni category went to Jennifer Pierre, who graduated from the School of Business as an entrepreneurship and marketing major, for Melanites. Her venture designs diverse toys, storybooks and games that celebrate brown boyhood.
Also at the awards ceremony, a member of the School’s Entrepreneurship Programs Advisory Board and one of this year’s business plan competition judges, William Heffner (BBA ’77), presented Heffner Fellowship awards to five students. Cody Skylar, Emily Gerstein, Nikki Millman, Justin Levy and Jonathan Ovadia each received $2,500 to help them find and accept an entrepreneurial-related summer internships. The annual award is funded through an endowment gift Heffner made in 2006.
|Nelly Sudrri (left) and Lauren Peaslee won third
prize in the undergraduate student category for
Sobe Media Group
|Josh Fu (far right) won third prize in the graduate
student/alumni category for Haathi Cloth.