NU teams win over $1M in business plan competition

Two business teams founded in Northwestern University’s NUvention entrepreneurship courses took first and second place at the Rice Business Plan Competition this weekend, walking away with more than $1 million combined in cash and investments.

It is the second straight year that Northwestern teams have won the competition.
The competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level business plan competition. Forty-two teams competed in front of 300 judges for more than $1.2 million in prizes. The emerging companies from graduate schools around the world pitched their business ideas to venture capitalist and industry experts seeking startups in which to invest.
Winning first place was SiNode Systems, a clean tech startup that commercialized an anode for lithium-ion batteries that allows the battery to charge more quickly and hold a charge 10 times longer than current technology.
Developed in the lab of Harold Kung, professor of chemical and biological engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the anode could greatly enhance battery life for smartphones and electric vehicles.?
SiNode’s winnings of $811,000 included the competition’s grand prize -- $350,000 from the Goose Society of Texas -- as well as $100,000 from OWL Investors. Other prizes came from Mercury Fund, Greater Houston Partnership, the U.S. Department of Energy, Trailblazer Capital, PKF of Texas, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, BBVA Compass, Miller, Egan, Molter & Nelson LLP, and others.
The SiNode team came together last year during NUvention: Energy, an energy entrepreneurship course offered by Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN). In the course, interdisciplinary teams of students from across the University develop commercialization plans for early-stage energy products, technologies or services.
The popular NUvention program -- a slate of entrepreneurship courses offered through the Farley Center on energy innovation, Web-based businesses, digital media, medical innovation, and devices to meet needs in resource-limited settings -- has spawned a number of startup companies. Industry leaders help teach the courses in which teams start with a product idea with the goal of ending up with a business.
SiNode comprises graduate students from two Northwestern schools: Joshua Lau, Thomas Yu and Cary Hayner are at McCormick, and Guy Peterson, Samir Mayekar and Nishit Mehta are at the Kellogg School of Management.
Another Northwestern team, BriteSeed, took second place in the competition, winning $238,000 worth of investments and more than $40,000 in in-kind awards. A medical startup, BriteSeed introduced its product SafeSnips, technology that can be integrated into surgical tools to detect blood vessels during surgery and prevent unintended bleeding.
SafeSnips came out of the NUvention: Medical Innovation course during the 2011-12 academic year.
The technology was developed by a team of four students representing three Northwestern schools: Mayank Vijayvergia, a graduate student at McCormick; Paul Fehrenbacher, a medical student at the Feinberg School of Medicine; and Jonathan Gunn, a current student at Northwestern University School of Law, and Muneeb Bokhari, a Northwestern Law alumnus.
Other BriteSeed team members are Hariharan Subramanian, a research assistant professor of biomedical engineering and a McCormick alumnus, and David M. Mahvi, the James R. Hines Professor and Vice Chair of Surgery and Chief of Gastrointestinal and Oncologic Surgery at Feinberg.
BriteSeed is being mentored by the Chicago Innovation Mentors program, a multi-institution initiative that cultivates university-based biomedical and health care commercialization by matching experienced entrepreneurs, executives and domain experts with innovating faculty.?
More than 400 teams from around the world applied to the Rice Business Plan Competition this year with 42 of them invited to pitch their business plans at the three-day competition held at Rice University. More than 300 judges, including venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders, vetted the teams.
NuMat Technologies, whose team members represented engineering, chemistry, business and law, won last year’s grand prize as well as three major awards, worth a total of more than $874,000. The startup designs and creates high-performance materials to store clean fuels and produce them on a large scale for industry.