Entrepreneurs Alert to Market’s Needs

How do entrepreneurs discover the next big thing? If Drexel’s 2006 Entrepreneur Conference and Business Plan Competition was any indication, visionaries like Michael J. Hagan, chairman and CEO of NutriSystem, and member of the team that recently purchased the Philadelphia Inquirer, incorporate five keys for entrepreneurial success: look before you leap, people, vision and value, values and goal-setting.

“I believe one of the highest compliments one can achieve as a business person is to be described as an entrepreneur because that means you’re a builder, a creator and a risk taker,” said Mr. Hagan. “These are the attributes of successful business people and really what makes our economy unlike any other in the world.”

Hagan was the keynote speaker at the event on May 25 hosted by the LeBow College of Business Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship in Technology. The day focused on entrepreneurial alertness and was chock-full of business plan presentations vying to be selected as the next big idea. The more than 280 attendees also listened to noted panelists discuss what it takes to identify and cultivate these ideas for entrepreneurial success. Alumnus and trustee Mel Baiada ‘82 ‘85, managing partner of Base Camp Ventures, was the panel moderator.

With presentations from six teams pitching products from wireless applications for dining choices to pet fashions for dog and cat owners, judges selected Focus Therapeutics as the top prize winner. Focus Therapeutics is a biotechnology start-up that is developing THERiMAGE, a noninvasive localized chemotherapy system. The team received $12,000 in cash; $24,000 in-kind services from CMF Associates LLC for entrepreneurial coaching; $10,000 in-kind services from Hunter for brand creation. Team members include Kelleny Oum, Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering; Matthew Steege; Chris Donohue; Laura Lubetsky; J.P. Holland and Jai Eswara.

“The 2006 Drexel Business Plan competition showcased great diversity in terms of projects and schools participating,” said Mark Loschiavo, executive director of the Baiada Center. “The caliber of the plans increases year after year and the winning projects identified trends and opportunities that address vital needs in our society. The Baiada Center will continue to grow scalable businesses that will make a significant impact on our region.”

Other winners included second prize winner Vertechem, a chemical manufacturer and distributor of chemical products commonly known as resins which are widely used in the plastics manufacturing industry. Vertechem received $8,000 in cash; $2,500 in-kind services for financial strategy consulting from ACM Advisors, LLC; and $7,500 to $12,500 in writing graphics and printing expertise from Communications Services & Support and World Sales Solutions. Members include Tom Watchko and Galabina Lipidakova, both from Drexel’s LeBow College of Business One-Year MBA Program

LympheDIVAs™ took third place and received $4,000 in cash. Founded by two young breast cancer survivors and a fashion designer, LympheDIVAs creates medically correct compression apparel for cancer survivors who suffer from lympedema. Members include Kristin Dudley, an undergraduate student in Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design; Robin Miller and Rachel Levin.

Panelist Lucinda Duncalfe-Holt, CEO, The Pre-Commerce Group, said for a start-up company to be a success “you have to create the whole vision and just get things going. It is part intuition, but you also have to do analysis, observe emerging trends and involve other people.”

Ms. Duncalfe-Holt joined George Jankovic, president and COO of NutriSystem, Inc. and Dr. Bert Rosenbloom, Drexel’s Rauth Chair Professor of Marketing Management for a discussion on whether capturing emerging trends was an art or science.

“Entrepreneurs do not build products,” said Dr. Rosenbloom. “They build companies.”

The top three winners have the opportunity to build their company in the Baiada Center’s Business Incubator. All six finalists will appear on Venture Talk Radio, a call-in radio program for entrepreneurs.