Two early-stage companies received commitments for funding at the annual Olin Cup Awards ceremony Feb. 7 at Washington University’s Olin Business School.
The top award of $50,000 went to Is That One Good? (ITOG), a web site that allows users to generate relevant, accurate product recommendations, hold meaningful discussion about the products, and discover new items based on the individual’s preferences. ITOG differentiates itself by creating internal synergy so that book-lovers will have an opportunity to discover new magazines or restaurants without switching websites.
In addition to collecting the grand prize, ITOG’s founder, Richard Feldman, MBA 2008, won the $5,000 student cash prize.
The recipient of the $20,000 award is MedExceed, a medical device company that facilitates the recovery process for people affected by temporomandibular (jaw) joint injury. MedExceed’s inventor and CEO is Arash Sabet, MBA 2009.
The keynote speaker at the award ceremony was Arnold W. Donald, former chairman of Merisant and current president and chief executive officer of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, the largest charitable funder of diabetes research in the world. Donald has a long history with Washington University. He graduated from WUSTL with a degree in mechanical engineering before receiving an MBA from the University of Chicago. Donald has served as an executive in residence at the Olin Business School for the past two years, and has spoken on the topic of “Intraprenurial and Entrepreneurial Lessons.”
Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center said, “The number of student submissions increased this year, and four of the five finalist teams were founded by students. Programs like IdeaBounce® and Coffee with the Experts seem to be really helping the region’s idea-stage entrepreneurs, including our students. We appreciate the support from our sponsors and the community in helping to grow the entrepreneurial environment in the region.”
“InnovateVMS, the Venture Mentoring Service of Innovate St. Louis is committed to working with the winners of this year’s Olin Cup Competition. We see the Olin Cup as a highly valuable resource in the education of entrepreneurs within the St. Louis community, which is our primary goal,” said Pete Peters, Director of InnovateVMS. “This year’s winners will be given priority consideration for participation in our program. We are currently providing team mentoring at no cost to 27 new ventures, including Insight Genetics, one of last year’s Olin Cup winners, by 45 dedicated and experienced entrepreneurs and business persons interested in giving back to our community,”
The Olin Cup competition was founded in 1988 as part of The Hatchery entrepreneurship course at the Olin School of Business.
The competition began awarding up to $70,000 in seed funding in 2001 with the support of the Skandalaris family. In 2005 the competition began awarding the best student teams a $5,000.
To date, the competition has resulted in the formation of more than 50 new businesses by business students and alumni.
In 2003, the Kauffman Foundation selected WUSTL as one of eight U.S. universities to share $25 million in grants through a program designed to make entrepreneurship education available across campuses and transform the way entrepreneurship is viewed, taught and experienced. WUSTL received a $3 million grant and now has 37 course offerings spanning all degree types and levels.