May 12, 2002
It's not $10 million but it's a start.Tulane students Paul Breslow (G '02) and Shane Fulkerson (B '02) took the $1,500 top prize at the inaugural Freeman Business Plan Competition. The competition, in which Tulane-based teams pitched business plans to judges playing the part of potential investors, took place at the Freeman School on April 12-13.
Breslow and Fulkerson are the principals of WhiteWire, a communications firm that provides wireless local area networks to commercial, institutional and high-end residential markets.
"I agreed with their assessment that this is going to be the next wave in communications technology," says Aaron Miscenich (MBA '91), one of the judges. "If they can form strategic alliances, be ahead of the curve in positioning themselves as key players in the installation of the technology and line up key customer relationships on the install side, I think they can do well."
The competition, sponsored by the Freeman School's Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship and the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association, was open to students, faculty and staff from across the university. To be eligible, at least half of a team's participants needed to be affiliated with Tulane. A total of nine teams put together business plans and presented them to judges who played the part of potential investors. The judges grilled the teams on all aspects of their plans, from market research to financial forecasts.
On Friday, judges picked three plans to compete for the top prize the following day. In addition to WhiteWire, the other finalists were Digital Gourmet, which hopes to market DVD cookbooks featuring celebrity chefs, and Lacticulture, a health-care company that develops vaccines for prophylactic and immunotherapeutic use. Business plan competitions have become a big deal at universities across the country.
"A business plan competition is something we've wanted to do for quite a while," says John Elstrott, adjunct professor of business and director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute. "The objective is to offer the students interested in one day pursuing their own ventures a simulation of a real-world experience in terms of what it's like to put together a plan and compete for limited resources."
Membership in the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association is open to all Tulane faculty, staff and students. Indeed, spurring collaborations between the business school and other divisions of the university is a goal of the association and the competition.
"We're trying to get business school students to work on interdisciplinary projects with students, staff and faculty from other disciplines," Elstrott says. "I think the competition is a great outreach program," says Miscenich. "It helps the community understand what Tulane and the Levy-Rosenblum Institute are all about. The competition is a great way to show all departments of Tulane and the community what the students and the school are capable of."
Elstrott, who teaches classes on new venture creation at the Freeman School, sees the competition as more than a university project. New venture creation, he argues, is the bedrock of economic development.
"If we're successful in having faculty who have good research ideas team up with alumni, students and staff to put together plans, raise capital, license their intellectual property back from Tulane and start locally, it's going to create jobs and wealth here," Elstrott says. For more information about the association, contact Rosiland Butler, senior program coordinator, at email@example.com.
Mark Miester may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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