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Wakesmart tops BC venture competition

Published: Thursday, April 16, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Thirty-six teams from the Boston College community participated in the BC Venture Competition ( BCVC) this year. Out of the 20 teams in the semifinals, six teams entered the final presentation on April 7.

BCVC is one of the few business competitions sponsored by real-world business entities. The competition was epic, not just in terms of the number of participants, but the dynamic backgrounds of candidates and the broad spectrum of their ideas. According to the committee, 22 seniors, 11 juniors, 30 sophomores, and 16 freshmen were involved in the original 36 executive summary teams.

This year, competitors moved beyond finance and accounting topics. We saw BCSwag bring "efficient marketing to college students on behalf of retailers," according to one of the team members. Team Jaba designed an iPhone application that automatically answers an away status. Teams like Offshore Brewing Co. showed that new ventures are budding even in traditional industry. One of the team members, Mathieu Bon, is an exchange student from France; he met graduate student Christian Amport, CGSOM `10, a coffee master and self-brewer, and together they initiated the idea of brewing high-profit-margin authentic Belgian beer in the U.S.

Among the 36 ideas, four of them won special recognition from this year's BCVC judgment team. Human Asset Capital and Novis Geo Co. were tied for third prize and shared the $2,000 award. NetGene, an avant-garde in grip computing, won the $3,000 second prize. Experienced team WakeSmart was crowned the winner with a $10,000 award. Sitting through their presentation, all were thrilled by their creative concepts, professional delivery, and self-confidence.

Human Asset Capital positioned themselves as the middleman between medical students and professional private institutional lenders. They specialize in offering "income contingent loans" characterized by the collection of the debt that depends on the borrowers' future paying capacity. Because rapidly-increasing tuition has left college students with limited financial options and a 3.7 percent student loan default rate, financial institutions are discouraged.

HAC helps lenders pre-screen borrowers' profiles, submitting the most qualified applications based on measurements, such as the rank of schools to which students are accepted, to lenders. On the other hand, their affiliations with various private lending institutions secure the proper amount of financial aid these students need.

NetGene is dedicated to providing accessible, affordable, and scalable super computing. Their idea is huge, and the implementation is skillful. The group revised Microsoft's guiding vision a quarter of a century ago: "A PC in every home and every desk" to their vision today: "a super computer in every home and every pocket." The technology allows users to process their tasks utilizing the idling computing power in a network. The four members, all computer science majors at BC, coded the whole project by themselves after countless nights. NetGene has the support of Jason Bobe, director of community of personal genome projects at Harvard Medical School. By utilizing the existing CPU capacities, NetGene not only achieves high computing power, but also solves the problem of IT equipment growing obsolete, thus, preserving cash through the reduction of frequent investment in equipment.

Novis Geo Co. demonstrated that BC students are taking actions to live green. Teamed up by two sophomores, NGC is promoting the usages of geothermal power in the replacement of the current heating options in the greater Boston area. With a $25,000 dollar initial setup, the system is expected to last 10 years. NGC also plans to offer financing plans for their customers to make sure no one who embraces this idea is left behind. With such funding options and up to 30 percent tax credit by the government in supporting alternative energy prevalence, NGS is building a sustainable business model.

WakeSmart won the first prize this year. The team was a participant in the past two years' competitions. Its technology helps people wake up at their optimal point by tracking body movement during sleep. WakeSmart claims 95 percent of the time, users are guaranteed to wake up feeling refreshed and energetic. Compared to other sleep-tracking technologies, WakeSmart is cheaper and more precise. Two team members are also working on a possible iPhone application that is convenient for napping. Over the last three years, the WakeSmart team has gained valuable experience in making a fabulous technology marketable. Their detailed business plan has clearly mapped out the bright future of WakeSmart.

When compared to the 17 teams that prticipated in the first BCVC three years ago, the 36 teams participating this year prove that the competition has taken nest in the BC community. The BCVC committee's fundamental commission, according to the executive committee chairman Jim Luo, is to "educate undergraduates in the process of a success business start-ups." Many are inspired by innovative ideas, but more touching is the participants' passion and perseverance to put these ideas into reality.

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