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SterWave wins $10K new venture competition

SterWave, a student team drawn from the MIT Schools of Engineering, Management and Science, produced this year's David and Lindsay Morgenthaler Grand Prize-winning business plan in the fifth annual MIT $10K Entrepreneurial Competition.

In the $10K Competition, co-organized by the MIT Entrepreneurs Club (e-club) and the Sloan New Ventures Association (NVA), a $10,000 cash prize, along with several thousand dollars' worth of in-kind legal and accounting services and a "trillion bucks" worth of free advice, is given to the team which produces the best business plan that proposes the most promising new venture.

The SterWave plan aims to commercialize a proprietary new technology for sterilizing medical, laboratory and industrial supplies. Currently this market (worth hundreds of millions of dollars per year) is served by technologies which are seen as too slow, expensive, dangerous and damaging to the materials sterilized. The SterWave technology addresses each of these problems.

SterWave's record-size $10K team consists of management graduate students Alberto Haddad, Khinlei Myint-U and Suzanne Oakley; Owen Hughes (MIT SB '86), management fellow Robert Lewis; Peter Nuytkens, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science; Jason Chen, a senior in materials science and engineering, and Srikar Srinath, a senior in EECS.

Though their decision was difficult, the judges said they had a "most enjoyable" time this year due to the "astonishing" quality of the plans. Each of the finalists not only prepared a plan but also made significant progress on working prototypes and mock-ups of their products. The other five finalists included:

  • ������HyperLearning, producing computer-aided interactive learning guides for math, science, and engineering at both the high school and college levels, by nuclear engineering graduate student John Chun, and Cris Eugster and Dan Wang, both of whom received MIT doctorates in1993.
  • New Frontiers Information Corporation, pioneering the emergence of electronic markets with an on-line employment agency for technical professionals, by Jay Coulson, a senior in computer science and engineering; Andrew Heitner, a graduate student in mechanical engineering; Frank Leibly, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, and Robert Ramstad, who received his master's in computer science in 1992.
  • ������Up&Comers Trading Card Company, marketing aspring athletes' action cards that "look and feel" like professional athlete cards, by Jason Farris and Robert Ward (both receiving the SM this year).
  • SenFlex, enabling flexible manufacturing and process control through wireless technology, by Roland Ayala, Charles DeWitt, Lance Haag and Michael Rutz, all juniors in management.
  • MediaCast Technologies, developing software products to deliver interactive multimedia content and internet access, by Paul Bosco, Charles Compton, Ye Gu and Christopher Lefelhocz, all graduate students in EECS.

The MediaCast team was honored with a $1,000 Sloan Product Development and New Venture Track Prize for their well-done plan and much-needed product. The other finalist teams received copies of books by MIT Professors Ed Roberts (Entrepreneurship: Lessons from MIT and Beyond), Glen Urban and John Hauser (Marketing), and MIT alumnus Gordon Bell (High Tech Ventures), courtesy of the authors and the MIT Entrepreneurs Club.

The semifinalist team of Educational Designs was also awarded The Most Socially Relevant New Venture Prize for bringing MIT's renowned 2.70 design contest to high schools throghout the country and the world. Team members Ross Levinsky, a graduate student in mechanical engineering; Andrzej Skoskiewicz (MIT SM '93); Jeff Reback, a senior in computer science and engineering, and Janice Yoo, a senior in political science, are working closely with 2.70 Professor Harry West and have already supplied kits to high schools outside Massachusetts.

Open to all MIT students, the $10K Competition encourages student entrepreneurship and promotes cross-campus team building. Historically, the strongest teams have included combinations of technical and management student talent. This spring, 33 teams with nearly 70 people submitted executive summaries; by early March, the judges asked nine semifinalist teams to prepare full business plans.

The all-volunteer $10K judging panel consists of Joseph Hadzima, partner in the law firm Sullivan & Worcester's High Technology/New Ventures Group; Christina Jansen, licencing officer at the MIT Technology Licensing Office; Vince Cipollone, Matthew Littlewood, and Mark Verdi of the Price Waterhouse Entrepreneurial Services Center; Matthias Plum, founding partner of the venture capital firm Copley Venture Partners; Russ Olive, senior lecturer on entrepreneurship and the management of technology at the Sloan School of Management, and David Morgenthaler, founder and managing partner of Morgenthaler Ventures, a venture capital firm.

Sponsors of the $10K Competition include the School of Engineering, the Sloan School, the MIT Technology Licensing Office, Price Waterhouse, Copley Venture Partners, the MIT Enterprise Forum, Ronald Trahan Associates, Sullivan & Worcester, Thermo Electron Corporation, Draper Associates and the David and Lindsay Morgenthaler Foundation.

Members of the 1994 organizing committee were Joost Bonsen, Richard Shyduroff and Douglas Ling of the e-club; J.J. Laukaitis, Chris Meyers and Jim Macintosh of the NVA, and Krisztina Holly of Stylus Innovation, the 1991 $10K winner.

A version of this article appeared in the May 25, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 34).

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