RENO — Last week, six finalists were named in the University of Nevada, Reno’s first-ever Sontag Entrepreneurship Award Competition, which awards a winner-take-all grand prize of about $50,000 to help the students bring their business ideas to fruition in the real world.
Two days after the Sontag Award finalists were named, finalists in the statewide Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition were named, and 13 of the 18 finalist teams were from the UNR.
On Monday, UNR College of Business Dean Greg Mosier told a crowd gathered in Lawlor Events Center that 35 teams had submitted preliminary business plans for the Sontag Entrepreneurship Award Competition. The competition was funded by a $1 million gift to the university from alumnus Rick Sontag in September.
“We received very high-quality proposals from the students overall. with students from various colleges and disciplines participating.” Mosier said, “The committee finally narrowed it down to six finalists.”
Each of the six finalist teams have until April 27 to submit a completed written plan. They will give oral presentations on May 4, with the winner being announced May 9. The six final teams are:
• BoxFeeds, which plans to encourage breweries to focus on sustainability by converting waste products from the brewing process to viable products for other markets. Team members include Kelsey Plank, Zachary Karmiol, Morgan Vonnahme Brannon Orr, Arianna Rosen and Bradley Moakler.
• Entropy Fuel Systems, which plans to reshape the direction and progress of ethanol production in the United States and around the world. Keaton W. Cooley-Rieders is the sole team member.
• Envirohaven, which plans to revolutionize the “green” housing industry by manufacturing self-contained, energy-producing, efficiently designed home packages that can be easily assembled anywhere. Team members include Clint Borchard, Vicki Bischoff, Manpreet Kaur, Shaun Cameron and Adair Melendez.
• Grabitech, which plans to manufacture, package and distribute the Tag n’ Grab notification system: software and hardware designed to aid consumers in keeping track of their personal belongings. Team members include Justin Yang, Felicia Groso, James Malone, Victor Morrow and Cho Yu Chong.
• Mining Environmental Technology and Services (METS), which plans to develop, produce and market optical instruments to detect potentially harmful airborne particulates in mining work places. Team members include David Karr, Bryan Rainwater, Ben Sumlin and Heather Zunino.
• Modphalt Green Asphalt Technology, which plans to encapsulate ground tire rubber (GTR) particles with a polymer to create a solution in the asphalt roofing industry. Team members include Brett Shaffner, Chelsea Hejny, James Eckvahl and Wesley Clary.
Students selected as finalists by the judging committee, which was comprised of business professionals and university faculty, hail from a variety of disciplines, including those in the College of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Science. Dave Croasdell, associate professor of information systems, served on the judging committee and was part of the team that put together the rules and structure of this year’s inaugural competition.
“We had a lot of really good proposals,” he said. “The six finalists we chose were ones who we think really have a shot at generating jobs and affecting Nevada’s economy. Part of what they have to do is show us how they plan to use the prize money in the next three years to execute their plan. The ideas presented go beyond creating a business plan. We believe each of the finalists has a real shot of translating their proposal into a viable business.”
The final proposals submitted by the six teams will be judged by the board of directors of the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, a state-funded organization founded to spur capital investment and job creation in Nevada, which is chaired by State Treasurer Kate Marshall.
“We think we have everyone at the table in this competition – investors, faculty, entrepreneurs – who can make this a meaningful competition with potential to help students put their knowledge and creativity to work in the real world,” Mosier said. “That is exactly what Rick Sontag intended when he gave us the generous gift for this program.”
In giving the gift, Sontag said, “I hope this encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in Nevada’s students and drives them to want to succeed, no matter the cost. So many times, opportunities are sitting in front of us that only require the decision to do them.”
On Wednesday, 13 student teams from UNR were among the 18 teams named as finalists in the statewide Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition, presented by Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NCET). Now in its eighth year, the university has garnered 15 of the 23 awards presented at the competition over the past three years.
This year, the UNR student teams named as finalists are:
• In the graduate student category, Fernley Fuels, LLC, Go Fish! and TexDocs
• In the undergraduate student category, Deep End, Envirohaven, Milennial marketing Group, LLC, and thecollegefishbowl.com
• In the Lt. Governor’s Award category, all of the finalists are from UNR, including Deep End, Envirohaven, Fernley Fuels LLC, Go Fish!, Golden Ops LLC and WaterMule
Prizes in the competition include $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 going to the first-, second- and third-place winners, respectively, in the graduate and undergraduate competition, and $10,000 going to the team that receives the Lt. Governor’s Award, presented to the business plan that best employs clean, renewable or efficient energy technologies and services.
“I’m so grateful for what NCET has done with the Governor’s Cup here,” said Gary Valiere, who has advised students in the competition since its inception. “Dave (Archer) has done a masterful job running the competition in Nevada.” Archer is the president and CEO of NCET, a nonprofit organization that helps Nevadans start businesses by connecting them to resources.
On Saturday, two UNR teams advanced to the third and final round of the First Look West (FLoW) competition, one of six regional business plan competitions for clean energy sponsored by a $2 million Department of Energy program. Envirohaven, the team that aspires to manufacture easily assembled homes designed for living without the need for public utilities, scored the trifecta this week, being named a finalist in all three competitions. Modphalt, a team aspiring to produce a polymer-modified asphalt material for roofs using ground tire rubber, was also named a finalist in the FloW Competition, in addition to their achievement as a finalist in the Sontag Competition.
FLoW offers a first prize of $100,000, a second place prize of $60,000 and third place prize of $40,000. The final round of the competition will take place April 30 – May 1 at the California Institute of Technology campus in Pasadena, Calif. The winning team from the western region will compete against the five other regional winners at the national competition in Washington, D.C. in June.