Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial community explored the virtual community, witnessed what could be the next big ideas in technology and heard a unique perspective on risk taking and entrepreneurial passion at the 2007 Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship in Technology.
Keynote speaker Phillip Garfinkle ’83, founder, Picture Vision; executive chairman, A21; CEO, Navig 8; and founder and managing partner, Trust Strategy Group, summed up the conference appropriately when he said that entrepreneurs “have a passion about what they are doing. And that passion is something they want to share with other people.”
Such passion was evident as the six finalists in the Baiada Center Business Plan Competition gave their presentations to a panel of judges and to the approximately 150 event attendees. The final pitches included ideas that could change the world – such as a technology to help patients with neurological disorders – to ideas that would revolutionize the beauty and leisure industries.
First prize went to Renaissance Scientific LLC which plans to license its intellectual property to manufacture male latex condoms containing sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), a product that is spermicidal, destroys pathogens transmitted sexually, including HIV and the cause of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus; and is much safer for women than the spermicide currently used in a wide-variety of condoms on the market, nonoxynol-9. Subsequently, Renaissance Scientific will develop SDS as a female-controlled vaginal microbicide to protect women from sexually transmitted infections. The Renaissance Scientific team consisting of Dr. Sandra Urdaneta and Lucian Herciu, both from LeBow College, and partners Dr. Mary K. Howett and Dr. John Kreider will receive $12,000 in cash, and $34,000 in combined in-kind support from CMF Associates ($24,000) and Hunter ($10,000).
AcquaSTAR, Inc., a team of Drexel MBA candidates including Matthew Morano, Jarek Checinski, Wai Kiu Lee, and Lou Savastini, earned second place for their plan to produce a reliable low-energy solution that produces safe drinking water. ACM Advisors LLC ($2,500) and Communications Services & Support (up to $12,500) will provide $15,000 of in-kind support in addition to the $8,000 in cash AcquaSTAR will receive.
Third place was awarded to Neuthao Technologies, a biomedical device company with a plan to design, develop, manufacture and market closed-loop neuro-modulation devices for patients suffering from neurological disorders. The team of Andrew Khair from Drexel’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, Danny Tan and Terence Chia received $4,000 in cash and in-kind support services totaling $5,000 from ThreeZero Communications.
The top three companies will have the opportunity to launch their ventures from the Baiada Center Business Incubator.
“Each one of the competitors that presented today should feel very good of the accomplishments they made,” said Mark Loschiavo, executive director, Baiada Center. “It is a very rigorous process we put them through and it is a huge commitment on their time.”
Prior to the business plan presentations, the growth of virtual communities was discussed by a panel moderated by Donna De Carolis, Ph.D., department head of management, Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and academic director of the Baiada Center. The panel consisted of Michael Dever, co-founder and managing partner, Mind Drivers, LLC; Sean M. Hackett, Ph.D., assistant professor, management, Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business; Emmanuel Koku, Ph.D., assistant professor, sociology, Drexel University’s College of Arts & Sciences; and Rich Milgram, president and CEO, Beyond.com.
Dr. Koku explained how through virtual communities, business is no longer bound by time and space, is not limited to face-to-face or telephone conversations and that virtual communities help people become attracted to business. Dr. Hackett expounded on Dr. Koku’s point, saying that virtual communities empower people to shape how and what they buy. According to Milgram, it is important to engage and track visitors to a businesses virtual community and be aware of information such as why they are visiting the community, how easy is it for them to visit, and will they interact within the community. Virtual communities are becoming so powerful, said Dever, that users of the youtube.com community convince CBS Television to reconsider its cancellation of a TV program.
In his keynote address, Garfinkle examined the symbiotic relationship between investors and entrepreneurs and encouraged those in attendance to focus on a building a strong management team, be open to change. Garfinkle also said that entrepreneurs have their own “eco-system” which is composed of innovation, passion, and reward.
“We try to make success out of leveraging these traits,” said Garfinkle.