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Ross Students Excel at World's Largest Business Plan Competition

5/13/2011 --

Concepts in green and high tech sectors net $216,000 in prize money.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Several student-run startups recently took top prizes at the Rice University Business Plan Competition (RBPC), the world's largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition. The two winning teams, Regenerate and Are You a Human, both started their business plan competition season at the University's Michigan Business Challenge and were supported by the Samuel Zell and Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. In April, the teams took home $216,000 in total cash prizes and investment dollars at the RBPC.

Beating out more than 500 original business plan submittals and 42 competing teams, Are You A Human took second place in the competition. The company, which has developed a game-based human authentication tool that replaces the distorted text images known as CAPTCHAs, won $15,000 for this achievement and also went on to win the Most Promising Technology Start-Up Award, for an additional $100,000 investment. Regenerate, which markets on-site anaerobic digesters to food service operators, was awarded the Think Green investment prize. This $100,000 award from Waste Management is one of seven major investment awards at RBPC and is awarded to the best plan in the green technology sector.

"The Rice competition invites 42 very strong teams, and two U-M teams rising to the top of this very tough field validates the notable talent and skill of our student entrepreneurs," says Paul Kirsch, associate director of the Zell Lurie Institute. "I am confident the funding they received, in addition to the feedback they gathered and the network connections they made, will significantly help both teams significantly advance their businesses."

In the spirit of the institute’s action-based approach to learning, intercollegiate competitions provide further opportunities for students to refine their plans, expand their networks, receive funding, or learn about other aspects of their entrepreneurial venture. All teams receive in-depth training and support from the faculty and staff at the institute, including business development, refinement, and presentation sessions. These ensure all students have the solid business foundation necessary to commercialize a great idea.

"Participating and succeeding at a competition on the scale of Rice was a tremendous achievement, both for the team and for the growth of Are You A Human," says Tyler Paxton, MBA '11, CEO of Are You A Human. "Paul Kirsch and others at the Zell Lurie Institute have provided invaluable help since day one."

Are You A Human and Regenerate are among many successes for U-M teams on this year’s intercollegiate business plan competition circuit. Reveal Design, developer of a formal verification software tool to chip design firms, won first place at Carnegie Mellon University’s McGinnis Venture Competition in March. Further, MEMStim, which sells MEMS electrode leads to medical device companies and took home $27,000 in prizes at the Michigan Business Challenge for several awards, placed second at San Diego State University’s Venture Challenge. With several competitions still outstanding, many of these teams still have the opportunity to secure additional prizes.

For more information, contact:
Mary Nickson, (734) 615-4424,