Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Team Takes Third Place, $30,000 in Cash Prizes At California Dreamin’ Business Plan Competition
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth in a series of stories highlighting the success of student business plan teams from the Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in Spring 2014. Each year, WCE students work with the university’s Division of Research to develop commercialization plans for technologies developed at the university. Over the past 12 years, Bauer teams have had 21 podium finishes in national business plan competitions.
Five entrepreneurship students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston brought home third place during an invitation-only business plan competition for a pitch that proposes a solution for the lack of clean and safe drinking water worldwide.
The team, which included Valeria Bernadac, Eric Beydoun, Julia Lonnegren, Sergey Petrov and Ivette Rubio, took a top spot in the California Dreamin’ Business Plan Competition, with students from the University of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University finishing first and second, respectively. The Bauer team’s business plan focuses on a technology developed by UH civil engineering Assistant Professor Debora Rodrigues that purifies water using a nanotechnology coating solution.
Dubbed “Wavve” (which represents the first letter of the word “water” in English, Spanish, Swedish, Russian and French, the native languages of the students on the team), the business is designed to sell its product to existing water filtration companies. Rodrigues’ coating technology enhances existing water purification membranes, making water potable in underdeveloped countries.
“Wavve’s mission is simple: to redefine clean, pure and safe water by providing the water consumer with an effective single-stage filter coating product,” Lonnegren said. “Our patented nanotechnology-based solution enhances existing water purification membranes, providing an innovative differentiator for companies seeking to gain a competitive advantage in the water filtration industry.”
The recent competition required the students to submit a written business plan describing the product, industry information, competition in the market, marketing plans and financial projections. After arriving in California, they participated in several rounds of competition that included face-to-face presentations in front of judging panels of venture capitalists.
The team was awarded $30,000 and guaranteed screenings with three of the competition’s venture capital firm partners, including Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, March Capital, Menlo Ventures, Miramar Ventures, Pritzker Group, Ricon Venture Partners and True Ventures.
“The collaboration between departments at the University of Houston opens up doors for all students to learn from each other and take UH to a new level,” Lonnegren added. “It has been an extremely interesting process learning about the nanotechnology that Dr. Rodrigues has invented.”
This is the third business plan competition for Wavve this semester, with their first win being at the Global Student Business Plan Competition at the College of the Bahamas, and receiving the Wells Fargo Clean Tech prize during the Rice Business Plan Competition.
Hosted by Chapman University, the California Dreamin’ competition is in its third year. In 2013, Bauer College students won first place. This year’s competition took place April 26 and 27 and featured 35 schools, including University of Cambridge, Cornell University, University of North Carolina, Pennsylvania State University, Stanford University, Texas Christian University and University of California, Berkeley.
By Amanda Sebesta