By Chris Casey | University Communications
DENVER - A business that improves treatments for allergy sufferers while increasing revenue for physicians took top honors at the 12th annual Bard Center for Entrepreneurship Business Plan Competition.
Allergy Solutions, founded by Neil Smith, a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Executive MBA program and 13-year physicians assistant, was awarded the $10,000 first prize. About 250 people attended today's award luncheon at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Denver.
The runner-up finisher, awarded $5,000, was Nanoly, a company that makes a polymer shield that protects vaccines outside of the refrigeration chain. Fenix Paddles, which designs and manufactures lightweight, high-performance water sport paddles made with a blend of carbon fiber and bamboo, finished third with a check for $2,500. The three remaining finalists, each receiving $1,000, were Babylon Produce (hydroponic heirloom tomato production facility in Montana); BH Apparel (consumer-driven, customized, intimate apparel products and accessories); and SnowGate (outdoor locker system designed to prevent equipment theft).
Scenes from the Business Plan Competition and lunch:
In making his presentation to the panel of judges, Smith said, "Patients are pouring into doctor's offices looking for relief from allergies." He explained that through Allergy Solutions' turnkey allergy services, physicians who previously referred allergy care to other specialists can now provide the care and keep the revenue. "We're looking at a cost-effective, efficient way to help patients."
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA, professor in the School of Medicine, was among the development team members for Allergy Solutions, which expects to reach $30 million in revenues within five years. Smith noted that Meyers provided mentorship through his certificate program in Bioinnovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado | Anschutz Medical Campus. Other partners in Allergy Solutions are Daryl Winn and Adam Burrack.
Peter Matheu, a founder of Nanoly, noted that "when you improperly store a vaccine it loses its effectiveness over time." The Nanoly system offers potential to deliver needed vaccines to millions of people across the globe.
After Lisa Wermuth delivered a presentation about her firm, Fenix Paddles, judge Chris Onan said, "You crushed it." Wermuth is completing her MBA with a certificate in Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School.
In his introductory remarks at the luncheon, Madhavan Parthasarathy, CU Denver associate professor of marketing and director of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship, said, "The competition's goal has always been to inspire, instill and inculcate innovative thinking among young people." He noted that this year the competition expanded to include entries from Montana State University. "Next year we will further expand the competition to include schools in the Rocky Mountain West, from Montana to New Mexico, making it the only truly regional championship of its kind."
He thanked Pamela and Richard Bard for "the vision and the original leadership" of the 17-year-old center. Next year the competition and the center will have a new name, the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, after Jabs, founder and CEO of American Furniture Warehouse, donated $10 million to the center this spring.
Jabs was unable to attend the competition, but he narrated a video message at lunch. Parthasarathy called Jabs and "very good friend and an inspiration for all of us."
Jabs is also a major benefactor to his alma mater, Montana State University, where he donated $25 million to what is now the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Kregg Aytes, dean of the college, attended the business plan competition and said he looks forward to the partnership between CU Denver and Montana State. With students and faculty from the institutions collaborating, "We're going to end up making not only Colorado stronger as an entrepreneurial ecosystem, but also Montana," Aytes said. "And that's simply good for the United States."
The Advisory Council for the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship honored Partharsarathy for his efforts, and CU Denver Business School Dean Sueann Ambron thanked him for his leadership of the Bard Center, saying, "We're really going to new places (with the center), and it's very exciting to see that." She told the finalists in the competition, "You're the future business leaders of our community, and what a difference you're going to make."
Ambron gave special recognition to this year's panel of judges, including Onan, of Galvanize; Kim Bixel, Good Verb Group; and Stephanie McCoy, Columbine Capital Advisors.
"You were so generous with your good ideas and help. It was extraordinary," Ambron told the judges. "I think all of the competitors benefited from your wisdom."
The luncheon keynote speaker was Bud Ahearn, recently retired executive of CH2M HILL, where he was a leader in the engineering business.
(Photo at top: Finalists in the Business Plan Competition are, from left: Cory Finney (SnowGate), Peter Matheu (Nanoly), Neil Smith (Allergy Solutions), Mark Tibbitt (Nanoly), Nikki Gabriel (BH Apparel), Balaji Sridhar (Nanoly), Lisa Wermuth (Fenix Paddles), Christian Nitu (SnowGate) and Alex Crosby (Babylon Produce). At far right is Madhavan Parthasarathy, director of the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship.)