April 15, 2014

Cross-disciplinary teams lead Business Plan Competition

Success continues for winners


KAir Battery continued to impress at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houston, Texas — billed as the world’s richest and largest graduate-level student startup competition.


The team was one of only 42 chosen to compete, and distinguished itself further by winning a $100,000 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Prize. KAir Battery has also been invited to compete in the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition in Washington D.C. in June.


Overall, KAir was one of 15 teams to advance to the semifinals at Rice, earning $2,000. The team also placed second out of all teams in the elevator pitch competition, winning an additional $750.


The long-established tradition of exploring new and exciting ideas continued with the 2014 Ohio State Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurship at Fisher College of Business.

The competition, now in its 14th year, featured teams from a range of disciplines across Ohio State.

“It was an incredible learning experience in terms of the mentorship we received, and the understanding of how to clearly communicate your idea and develop a model that’s attractive to investors,” said Damian Beauchamp, who partnered with his fellow PhD chemistry students and MBA for Working Professionals candidate Kate Fisher to develop the business plan for open-track winner KAir Battery.

KAir Battery, a technology invented by team member Xiaodi Ren and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty Yiying Wu, won $15,000 for its plan to develop highly efficient and cost effective large-scale stationary potassium air batteries with non-toxic byproducts at the end of their lifetime. The KAir team — including chemistry PhD students Xuanxuan Bi, Mingfu He and Zhongjie Huang — also traveled to the Rice Business Plan Competition just days after winning at Ohio State (see sidebar).

“Every milestone we have, every step we take is validation that we have an exciting product to share,” Fisher said.

Winning the undergraduate track and a $5,000 award was Juiceboxx, a protective case for MacBook chargers designed to reduce cord wear-and-tear and failure. Produced with an eye for design aesthetics, the startup is the work of Scott Scherpenberg, Lucas Williamson, Andrew Lien and Samuel Silverman.

“Opportunities like the Business Plan Competition push you further than you might’ve gone, making sure you understand every step of the process and helping keep sight of your goals,” said Scherpenberg, an industrial design major, entrepreneurship minor and Business Builders Club member.

Leading up to the awards ceremony, teams in the competition took part in in-person pitch sessions with mentors and coaches from the technology and entrepreneurship community. Supporting sponsors of the competition included Deloitte & Touche USA, the Keenan Family Foundation, the Harry T. Mangurian Foundation, Tony Manna and Signet Enterprises, Doug Weintraub, and Venture Highway. In-kind donors included Tech Columbus, Pursuit and KGM (Kooperman, Gillespie, Mentel).

Additional support for team workshops came from Huntington, while the competition also partnered with Ohio State’s Technology Commercialization Office and the Moritz College of Law’s Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic.

Photos from the awards ceremony: