Winners of the U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup


At the inaugural University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup on Friday, November 20, $35,000 in prize money and a dramatic bronze trophy depicting the Academical Village were at stake.

A panel of four experienced investors and entrepreneurs — Kevin Sidders, Kirby Farrell, Carolyn Frazier and Rick Kulow — served as judges and accepted the difficult task of choosing from among the entrepreneurial concepts presented by six student teams, which were selected from a field of 70 in the University-wide competition that began in various Schools across Grounds in October.

The cup and a $20,000 check for first prize was awarded to two doctoral students from the School of Engineering and Applied Science, Adam Malcom and Scott Kasen, who presented their plans to bring an award-winning belt-based life preserver to market.

“We’re trying to create a life jacket that people have no qualms about wearing,” said Malcom, who along with Kasen, pitched the business plan for their company called Advanced Marine to the judges in the required 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of questions.

Advanced Marine’s product responds to the U.S. Coast Guard statistics that only 22 percent of boat occupants wear life jackets, and nine of 10 people who drown are not wearing a personal flotation device, resulting in as many as 400 deaths a year. The company’s simple, unobtrusive belt claims to be more comfortable — and more likely to be worn — than the traditional hot, bulky life jackets. The design has a patent-pending and won a 2006 international competition sponsored by the U.S Foundation for Boating Safety and the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association.

Darden’s director of entrepreneurship programs Philippe Sommer, whose idea it was to expand Darden’s annual Entrepreneurial Concept Competition to other Schools across Grounds, was pleased with the level of competition at the event.

“The six finalists included students from the Curry School of Education, the Darden School of Business, the McIntire School of Commerce and the Schools of Law, Medicine and Engineering. They all pitched great ideas, and it’s very rewarding to see a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation flourish across Grounds,” said Sommer. “This is how brilliant ideas are brought to life.”

Second place and $10,000 in prize money went to the Rheo Logic team, led by Will Mauldin, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering. Rheo Logic uses medical ultrasound-based technology developed at U.Va. to measure structural properties, like viscosity. The technology can be used to assure quality control for all kinds of manufactured goods, from food and beverages to pharmaceuticals, and is cheaper, simpler and more accurate than existing tools.

Cspot, a business invented by McIntire students Ashley Eidson and her partners, Cesar Devers of Princeton University and William Kelly of Virginia Tech, took third place and $5,000. Cspot enables drivers to find, reserve and pay for parking spaces in high-demand environments, such as big cities, universities and major event venues.

The U.Va. Cup was sponsored by the U.Va. Office of the Vice President for Research and the Darden School of Business and underwritten with a $50,000 gift from Third Security LLC, a venture capital firm specializing in biotechnology and life sciences. The firm’s chairman and CEO, Randal J. Kirk, is a member of the U.Va. Board of Visitors.

The U.Va. Cup winners were presented with an original trophy created for the occasion by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the sculpture program in the McIntire Department of Art to represent U.Va. and innovation.

The bottom half of the trophy combines a bell-shaped bronze bas-relief sculpture of the Academical Village cast with the ancient “lost wax” technique. On top is a spiraling bronze band with a levitating magnet-embedded medallion, which will be inscribed with the names and details of each year’s winning team.

A quote from U.Va. founder Thomas Jefferson is engraved on the spiraling band: “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”

“This is the beginning of something great,” said Sommer. “We expect the U.Va. Cup competition to grow next year — and the innovative ideas in the greater U.Va. community to flourish.”

To watch a slide show of the U.Va. Cup and for more information, visit U.Va. Today.

Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.

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