Plan to turn algae into oil wins prize

April 17, 2012 5:43 AM

Mark Miester

A Tulane University-based venture with a plan to turn algae into crude oil was one of the big winners at the Tulane Business Plan Competition on Friday (April 13).

Taylor Gilbert & Brandon Iglesias

Taylor Gilbert, left, who will receive a Tulane MBA this year, and Brandon Iglesias, a 2011 Tulane MBA grad, won this year’s Domain Cos. New Orleans Entrepreneur Challenge with their plan for ReactWell, which has a patent-pending technology to convert algae into crude oil.  (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

ReactWell, developer of a patent-pending technology to convert biomass into synthetic crude oil using underground geothermal reactors, earned the top prize at the Domain Cos. New Orleans Entrepreneur Challenge.

The contest, sponsored by Domain and presented in conjunction with the Tulane Business Plan Competition, awards $20,000 in seed capital each year to a high-impact venture based in New Orleans.

ReactWell founder Brandon Iglesias, who received an MBA from Tulane in 2011, says the company, which he started as a student at the A. B. Freeman School of Business, could generate up to 100 permanent jobs at each of its algae farms if it’s successful in moving forward.

“When you look at this year’s finalists, it really clearly shows that we’re starting to attract the type of ventures we were hoping to in terms of growing and diversifying the economy of New Orleans,” says Matt Schwartz, a Tulane alumnus and co-founder and principal of Domain, who served as one of the judges. “We’re very excited about the growth of the competition.”

Calcula, a Stanford University-based company, won the $50,000 Tulane Business Plan Competition with its plan for a medical device for patients with kidney stones.

Of the six finalists in this year’s competitions, two originated at Tulane: ReactWell and SODI-CAN, a water-disinfection system using solar energy.

“The Tulane finalists embody ideas we’re striving to instill in students,” says Ira Solomon, business school dean. “Whether the ventures are based at the business school, the medical school or elsewhere, we’re seeing more and more students applying business principles to tackle some of society’s most vexing problems.”

Mark Miester is the editor of Freeman magazine for the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

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