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Students' Sustainable Business Plan Racks Up Wins---and $65,000

4/14/2008 --

Potentia team Student business plan Potentia (pictured at right) scores big in trio of back-to-back competitions.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Never heard of Potentia? That could change soon enough. The U-M students behind this energy-saving business plan recently traveled to three national competitions and came home with an award from each one.

Team Potentia first won $15,000 in the third annual Cleantech Venture Challenge. Their plan is to commercialize an energy-scavenging battery-replacement technology to last 10 times longer than current batteries. The battery would be connected to wireless sensors that pick up on environmental conditions and then make adjustments for optimal performance. Using this technology, for example, lights would automatically turn off when a room becomes empty.

After winning Cleantech, team Potentia went on to garner $5,000 and $40,000 in resources in the Wake Forest Elevator Competition, as well as $5,000 from the Rice University Business Plan Competition. Using their prize money, Potentia’s Rishiraj Das (the Ross School) and Ruba Borno and Tzeno Galchev (College of Engineering) hope to take the business to market, helping to save energy and resources in the long term.

"We've learned a lot throughout this experience and we've made a lot of connections that we'll be contacting in the future," said Borno.

Cleantech Venture Challenge

Cleantech challenges students to compete in teams to showcase business opportunities in the emerging clean technology sector. The student teams must demonstrate venture-grade, for-profit business models and provide innovative solutions, services, or products that reduce environmental impacts or improve ecological sustainability. Potentia took home first place and $15,000.

Wake Forest University Elevator Competition

Teams from top universities were invited to pitch business plans that solve a pressing social need based on the triple bottom line: economic, environmental, and social. Teams are challenged to pitch their business plans in two-minute elevator rides to venture capitalists. Potentia won the MBA portion of the competition and took home $5,000 and $40,000 worth of resources.

Rice University Business Plan Competition

The Rice Business Plan Competition brought in a judging panel of more than 170 venture capitalists, investors, and business executives to judge business plans by MBA students from around the globe. The competition will be featured in the May 2008 issue of FORTUNE magazine. Potentia captured the second place sustainability award.

Written by Leah Sipher-Mann

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu