UW Business Plan Competition Kick-Starts Companies to Action

5/23/09

The University of Washington Business Plan Competition hosted by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) came to a close Thursday night, handing out $60,000 in prize money to an impressive field of technologies. It brought a bittersweet end for my team’s company, Shockmetrics. We did not take the $25K grand prize award that we spent months of sweat equity to win.

Nanocel, the company led by the scrappy entrepreneur Daniel Rossi, took home the big check with their compelling innovation and rock solid business plan (version 15). Maybe I should have stayed up until 2 am blogging about the my Business Plan experience on Xconomy like Daniel did to be as sharp during the Q&A. Maybe we should have pushed for a few more iterations of our business plan (we submitted only version 10). Honestly, I am not so bitter to lose to such a strong competitor; even though, my team was the one exchanging the ‘good natured taunting’ Daniel mentioned in his late night blog. Of course I am not bitter to collect a generous $5K check as a finalist . . . but the extra $20K in cash would have been nice!! I am mainly disappointed because the loss means we failed to effectively communicate to the judges that the Shockmetrics System will be saving lives in hospital intensive care units within the next five years. Then again that is the sweet part. The Shockmetrics System will be saving lives WITHIN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS.

So allow me to re-phrase my first sentence:  The UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Business Plan Competition brought a bitter, sweet BEGINNING for my team’s company, Shockmetrics.

Shockmetrics core technology was invented by Dr. Ken Schenkman, Wayne Ciesielski and Lorilee Arakaki, PhD, to provide non-invasive and continuous real time monitoring of one of the most common cause of death in the ICU, medical shock. I first met Ken and Wayne at the Science and Technology Showcase co-hosted by the Science & Engineering Business Association (SEBA) and CIE. At that time Shockmetrics technology was disclosed to UW Tech Transfer. Chris Porter, a prominent medical device entrepreneur and LaunchPad Entrepreneur Advisor along with Erik Roby, a UW TechTransfer intern, came on board first to size up the commercial potential of this technology.

Chris and Erik’s research identified the need to create a company around the compelling Shockmetrics Systems technology. Tech Transfer charged Erik with the task of forming a business development team that could create an effective plan for Shockmetrics. Erik leveraged his connections in SEBA and the MBA Biotech Club to find Ryan Bergsman, an MBA student and Process Development Engineer at Dendreon, and myself, a PhD student in bioengineering and Co-Founder of nPostBio. At that same time, Deborah Kessler, a UWTechTransfer Entrepreneur in Residence, formerly of Rosetta Inpharmatics, had taken notice of Shockmetrics and joined as the candidate CEO. We all came together with a single goal in mind: winning the Business Plan Competition.

Realistically, $25K is small potatoes compared to the millions necessary to launch a medical device, but the business plan competition value proposition to us was not the money. We wanted to throw ourselves in an environment that would force us to hit milestones, meet deadlines and above all fuel our desire with competition. We had a goal to compose a solid business plan that was driven by the exciting yet intense environment the Business Plan Competition provides. From crunching numbers to discussions over hockey stick financials to perfecting pitch decks, we fought through three rounds of scrutiny from 300 judges from the local entrepreneurial community and more than 90 competitors to place in the finals. More importantly we have developed a real business plan that is being put into action and have taken the first critical steps out of the lab and into the market.

As Paul Thelen, founder and chief strategy officer of Big Fish Games, stated at the awards dinner, “The biggest reasons an entrepreneur fails is that they fail to start.” Thanks to CIE, Shockmetrics along with many other UW based companies have successfully navigated that initial hurdle. The rest will be up to us.

Anthony Rodriguez is a PhD candidate in bioengineering at the the University of Washington, and the president emeritus of the Student Engineering Business Association at UW. Follow @

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