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Winner of $10K contest announced

Students from MIT's School of Engineering and Sloan School of Management collaborated to steal the show and win first prize for the best new-venture idea and plan in the 4th Annual MIT 10K Entrepreneurial Competition.

The $10,000 cash prize was awarded during a special ceremony of the MIT Enterprise Forum on May 12th to MIT students Nicholas DeLuca, a senior in mechanical engineering and Samuel Joffe, a graduate student in management.

Their winning business plan included the invention of Novus PillowPak a new plastic, inflatable cushioning product that will be used as a packing liner in boxes. Novus PillowPak is collapsible for bulk storage and would result in the use of 500 times less landfill space than Styrofoam peanut packing now commonly uses. Additionally, Novus PillowPak provides thermal insulation of products, is reusable and can reduce packaging costs by up to 50 percent, according to the inventors.

This year's Competition drew 27 first-round proposals, up from 17 last year. Eight were selected to submit full business plans. In all, 52 students participated. The Science and Engineering Schools and Sloan School were about equally represented. Most importantly, all but one of the five business plans ssubmitted in the second round were collaborative work of students from both ends of the campus. Sam Joffe made use of the Entrepreneurs Club's voice mail bulletin board as well as a Slaon School resume book put together by the 10K organizers to try to attract engineering students who may need a team member on the business side; while Nicolas Deluca stuffed Sloan School's student mail folders to try to find a business partner. Their extra efforts obviously paid off.

Other finalists were:

Bator: Robot Interactive Therapist, a robotic physical therapy workstation design, by Igo Krebs and Dan Rizika, graduate students in ocean engineering and management, respectively.

Cellular Composite, new cost-effective, energy efficient, environmentally friendly building material, by Michael Toole , John Miller and Ed Pendleton, graduate students in civil engineering and management.

Graphical Imaging Systems & Technology, a neural network-based character recognition system, by Lead Wey and Mark Lee a senior and graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science.

Two other plans were honored:

Parents Forum, by Shirley Lai, a graduate student in management and Eve Sullivan, an editorial assistant, was recognized for its consideration of social benefits of parent support groups, as well as the business potential. It was awarded the Social Venturing Award.

HandiHanger, by Susie Lynch and Brad Ashbrook, graduate students in management, was given the "Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award" for identifying, targeting, and thorough study of a specialty consumer product market niche.

The judging panel included: Joseph Hadzima, Jr., Sullivan & Worcester, Dr. Christina Jansen, MIT Technology Licensing Office, Mark Verdi and Vincent Cipollone of Price Waterhouse Entrepreneurial Service Center, and Matthias Plum, Copley Venture Partners.

The competition was generously sponsored by Copley Venture Partners, Draper Associates, Lotus Development Corp., MIT School of Engineering, MIT Sloan School of Management, Price Waterhouse Entrepreneurial Service Center, and Thermo Electron Corp.

"This year's 10K contestants and their business plans are excellent examples of an entrepreneur's special ability to see opportunities where problems or needs exist, to forge a vision of the possible, to ask 'Why not?' and to motivate, prod, beg, persuade and, sometimes, draw together the people and the resources necessary to turn their vision into reality," said Joseph Hadzima, Jr., a partner and director of the High Tech New Ventures Group at Sullivan & Worcester, a Boston-based law firm.

"All of the finalists' plans have great promise for success, so the choice wasn't easy," added judge. Christina Jansen of MIT's Technology Licensing Office. "We selected PillowPak as the 10-K winner for three main reasons. It appeared to be the most likely to achieve business success in the near future. The product was well-designed, with a view toward ease-of-use and low-cost manufacturing; and, it has the potential not only of solving a customer problem, but also of helping society solve a serious environmental problem," Dr. Jansen said.

The Competition is a joint venture of the MIT Entrepreneurs Club and the Sloan School's New Venture Association. The organization committee includes Douglas Ling and Richard Shyduroff, co-directors of the Entrepreneurs Club, Krisztina Holly, a member of the winning team in 1991, David Salwen, Vera Ketelboeter, and Zhen Hong Zhou , winner of the 1990 Grand Prize.

The MIT Entrepreneurs Club also proovides mechanisms such as the weekly brainstorming meetings, the x3-2000 voice-mail information tree to support venture formation, team-building, market research, product design and more.

A version of this article appeared in the May 19, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 37, Number 33).

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