Special to UM News
CORAL GABLES, FLA. (April 4, 2014) – New ventures including a mobile application for shopping, a data analytics solution for hospitals to reduce heart failure readmissions, and art deco chocolates that represent South Florida’s cultural mecca have taken top honors in the University of Miami’s 2014 Business Plan Competition, hosted by the School of Business Administration. The competition winners, honored in an awards ceremony April 4, took home a combined total of $65,000 in prizes.
Jake Elliot, Andrew Rodriguez, and Nicholas Sando won the grand prize and $10,000 in the undergraduate student category for SnagTag, an application for your smartphone that enhances the retail shopping experience by connecting retailers and consumers in a way never seen before.
In the graduate student category, Matt Varghese, Cristina del Toro, Sabrina Taldone, Joshua Cameron took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 for their venture, Valens, which provides a next generation data analytic solutions that allows hospitals to maximize efficiency in reducing heart failure readmissions while improving patients’ lives through better health care delivery systems.
And in the UM alumni category, Lucy Calamari won the Grand Prize and $10,000 for Lucky Lucy’s Chocolates, inspired by the colorful flavors and cultures of South Florida. Her chocolates reflect colorful retro designs of the city’s Art Deco movement.
“This year’s young entrepreneurs came to the competition with an extraordinary mix of great business ideas,” said Isaias Sudit, CEO and founder of TROVE and one of the Competition judges. “It is clear to this panel of judges how these winners are ready to go beyond the idea stage and truly execute. They will be exciting to watch and we are happy to send them on their way with some funding.”
Second place in the undergraduate category and $5,000 went to Paola Campodonico and Austin Zaslow for The Nest, a recovery center that accommodates prenatal and postpartum women, and post-surgical patients and offers 24/7 nannies, breastfeeding support, and other services to make recovery faster and easier. Second place in the graduate category and $5,000 went to Joe Bucciero of AdMoney, a mobile phone application that places ads on the background of a smartphones or tablet lock screens for a monthly fee. Second place in the alumni category and $5,000 went to Alex Suma of Ibis Power, which offers customized solutions for local renewable energy generation that overcomes all downsides of current technologies. It is almost ready to enter the U.S. and European markets.
Third place in the undergraduate category with a $2,500 prize went to Sultan Saleh Alghamdi for Central Express Laundry, a full-service laundry business in Saudi Arabia. Third place and $2,500 in the graduate category went to Rodolfo Hernandez for The Quiet American, a sustainable men’s luxury-yet-affordable clothing brand made of Alpaca wool; third place and $2,500 in the alumni category went to Thien Van Tran for Leash, an electronic security company that provides both hardware and software solutions to remedy the rise of smartphone theft.
“The judges were blown away by the caliber of ideas presented by the University of Miami entrepreneurs,” said Susy Alvarez-Diaz, director of entrepreneurship programs at the UM School of Business. “They have no doubt we will be hearing more about these companies as we have others that have grown out of our past competitions.”
In addition to the undergraduate, graduate and alumni category prizes, the Paul K. Sugrue Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and $2,500 was presented to Sidonia Swarm of On Demand Dietician, which streamlines access to dieticians for corporate employees. Also, four Heffner Internship Awards of $2,500 each were awarded to Maxim Bjelos, Alex Cantwell, Joey Lopez, and Kenthia Farmer.
The Business Plan Competition started last fall when 42 concept papers were submitted to the judging committee. Ultimately 16 semifinalists were selected to present to the judges April 1-3, with the winners named the following day. The judges included roughly one dozen successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from South Florida and Latin America.
Now in its 12th year, the Business Plan Competition is open to all University of Miami students and alumni. Past winners have gone on to build their ventures into businesses that have garnered national attention. They include such companies as College Hunks Hauling Junk and My Therapy Journal.com, both of which have been featured on ABC Television’s “Shark Tank,” a reality program in which entrepreneurs share their business ideas with a group of five self-made millionaires in hopes of getting venture capital to help them attain similar levels of success.