More than $250,000 awarded to four IU student-led startups as part of inaugural BEST competition
Four technology-based businesses led by Indiana University students will receive funding from the inaugural Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology, or BEST, competition.
The competition opened in September with 61 submissions from a wide range of students on the IU Bloomington campus. After three rounds of judging, the field was narrowed to six finalists, who presented their business plans to a panel of investor judges at the School of Informatics and Computing on April 14.
BEST winners, front row from left: Russell Saks (Campus Protein), Russell Conard (Ornicept), Michael Courtney (Distress Mobile) and Patrick Courtney (Distress Mobile); back row from left: Michael Yewdell (Campus Protein), David Perlman (Campus Protein), Jonathan Baldwin (YuMingle) and Kevin Courtney (Distress Mobile). Not pictured: Nathan Baldwin (YuMingle), Tarun Singh (Campus Protein) and Konstantine Mastroianni (Campus Protein).
Ultimately, four companies were selected by the panel of investors to receive funding totaling more than $250,000:
- Awarded $100,000 was YuMingle, a mobile platform for facilitating social connections, led by Kelley School of Business students Jonathan Baldwin of Indianapolis and Nathan Baldwin of Carmel, Ind. Through YuMingle, people will be able to create unique micro-social networks based on location and interests.
- Awarded $100,000 was Campus Protein, a Web platform for nutritional supplements and fitness information, led by Kelley School of Business students Russell Saks of Port Washington, N.Y., and Michael Yewdell of Rye Brook, N.Y. Through an innovative business model, Campus Protein supports rapid delivery of nutritional products aimed at college students.
- Awarded $50,000 was Distress Mobile, a mobile personal safety application, led by School of Public and Environmental Affairs student Kevin Courtney and Kelley School students Patrick and Michael Courtney, all of Carmel, Ind. Distress Mobile aims to provide an integrated, mobile communication platform connecting individuals with law enforcement officials.
- A fourth startup, Ornicept, was at a later stage in development and had larger capital needs than envisioned by the BEST competition. The investors felt strongly that it was important to support its growth and decided to provide a smaller investment aimed at helping the company reach its ultimate funding goal. Ornicept is a research-based company that develops remote avian surveying tools for the energy industry, led by School of Informatics and Computing student Russell Conard of Lafayette, Ind. The BEST investors are providing Conard and business partner Justin Otani, originally from Gresham, Ore., a student in both the Kelley School and the Maurer School of Law, with capital to assist their efforts to raise a round of financing over the summer.
"The ideas presented in the final round were truly exceptional," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and investor in the competition. "There were a wide range of concepts that had great potential for success. With the quality of students here at Indiana University, it was difficult to identify just a few to receive funding."
Bobby Schnabel, dean of the School of Informatics and Computing, and Donald F. Kuratko, director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Kelley School, and a group of 11 investors selected the winners after listening to the final presentations of each team's business plan.
The investors are working with the selected teams to identify next steps, which include selecting a board of directors, identifying space and refining their businesses.
"As a group who've taken an entrepreneurial path ourselves, the investors know and appreciate the challenges that lie ahead for these fledgling companies," said investor Mary Delaney, CEO of Luceo Solutions. "I'm honored to be involved with BEST, to have the opportunity to share my experiences and expertise with these talented young people.
"We have high expectations for the four companies we've selected, and we feel they are positioned for success. It will be fun to watch them grow and change," she said.
Schnabel declared BEST a tremendous success, for both the winners and for Indiana University.
"We were pleased with both the quality of ideas put forth throughout the entire competition and with the level of involvement the investors gave to us," he said. "In the long run, the mentoring the teams received from such a savvy group of investors may be more valuable than the capital they're providing the startups. In coming years, this is the type of activity that will continue to set Indiana University apart, establishing it as a place where talented students can foster and grow their creative ideas into real-world entities."
The student participants echoed that sentiment. "I want to express how incredibly valuable the BEST competition has been for my team and myself," said Saks, principal of Campus Protein. "We are fortunate to have had access to such a distinguished group of business people, and we've benefited tremendously from the mentoring and intense coaching sessions. Going forward, our business will be that much stronger having had that exposure and investment, and the overall experience has made a lasting impression on all of us."
The BEST competition was launched in September. A group of investors -- Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder; Scott Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of ExactTarget; Mary Delaney, CEO of Luceo Solutions; Chris Baggott, Compendium Software chairman and ExactTarget co-founder; Cheng Wu, chairman of Azuki Systems; Scott Etzler, CEO of Intercall; David Ferguson, partner at Ferguson and Ferguson; Steve Ferguson, chairman of the Cook Group; Mat Orrego, CEO of Cornerstone Information Systems; Eric Taylor, CEO of Taylor Building Corp.; and Tony Armstrong, CEO of the IU Research and Technology Corp. -- created a $1.1 million fund to support a competition for IU Bloomington students who submit plans for a startup company focused on Internet and software technology.
The annual prize is the largest in the world offered by a university solely to its students in a technology and business plan competition. The 2012-13 competition will kick off at the start of the fall semester.