ME Teams Take First, Third Place in Business Plan Competition

by Eric Schurr, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute

Six new technology-based companies founded at the University of Maryland walked away with a share of $50,000 in prize money at the University’s Third Annual Business Plan Competition last Friday. [pictures of the winners]

The winning companies, comprised of students, faculty and recent alumni, are each focusing on new or next-generation technologies in areas such as homeland security, high-tech manufacturing, and recreational vehicles.

"Winning this competition will help us realize our entrepreneurial dream," said mechanical engineering student Alok Priyadarshi, a member of first-place company Terplicators Inc. "Being recognized by such a distinguished panel of judges validates our business plan and gives us confidence to move forward. Our credibility will also be higher as we seek additional funding."

Terplicators, which netted $20,000 by winning the competition, is developing next-generation mold design software solutions. The company’s software modules take Computer Aided Design (CAD) or scanned data and produce accurate mold designs within minutes. Companies such as Black & Decker Inc. could speed their products to market by producing molds for complex plastic parts in minutes rather than days.

More than a third of the 30 potential customers contacted by Terplicators have already expressed interest in their product, including Black & Decker, Direct Dimensions, Space Limited, and NAVSEA. Graduate student Rohit Kumar and Associate Professor Dr. Satyandra Gupta, both from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, are also members of the Terplicators team.

Alertus Technologies LLC, winner of $15,000 and second place finisher in the competition, is developing a secure wireless communications system for emergency warning information. The system is designed for closed communities such as universities, large corporations or government campuses. It can disseminate detailed information—such as the nature of an emergency and what actions to take as a result—to large populations within seconds.

"Being recognized through this competition gets our name out in critical places," said Maryland alumnus Sandeep Mehta, a member of the Alertus team. "It will also make our pitch stronger as we approach future customers because we now have greater credentials."

Jason Volk, an undergraduate student in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, is also a member of the Alertus team.

Third-place-winner Castle Duncan Inc. won $7,500. The company has already developed a prototype of its ultra-safe all-terrain vehicle, which is designed to cut down on ATV-related injuries and deaths with a custom roll-cage and four-point safety harness. Castle Duncan’s team includes undergraduate student Adam Herbert and alumnus Richard Duncan, both from the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

The three remaining teams each won $2,500.

The competition was judged by Jonathan Aberman, partner at Fenwick & West LLP; Rob Cerbone, associate at Telecommunications Development Fund; Wayne Lee, partner, at Reed Smith LLP; John May, managing partner at New Vantage Group; and Erik Org, senior associate at Techno Venture Management.

Sponsors of the competition included Mohr, Davidow Ventures, Fenwick & West, Techno Venture Management, Telecommunications Development Fund, and Reed Smith LLP.

The Hinman CEOs Program, a living-learning entrepreneurship program at the University, managed the competition. The Hinman program is a joint initiative of the University’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Published May 12, 2003