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Innovative Diagnostic Service to Improve Women's Health Wins the 2009 VIEW Business Plan Competition

MOSCOW, Idaho – An innovative idea that provides hospitals, clinics and research labs with diagnostic services to better identify bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the winner of the University of Idaho’s 2009 Business Plan Competition. The competition was held Saturday, April 25, on the University of Idaho campus.

A team of three University of Idaho students and two MBA students from Washington State University collaborated to develop a feasible business plan for the diagnostic service. Presented under the company name of Lucid Diagnostics, this innovative business plan provides diagnostic services to help identify BV, a disease that affects millions of women worldwide.

“They did a great job of presenting the technology, the business concept and the business plan,” said Gene Merrell, associate vice president of research at the University of Idaho. “Of the presentations I watched, they received the most direct and focused questions from the judges. They handled them superbly.”

Lucid Diagnostics' project, direct from the research labs of Larry Forney, University of Idaho professor of biology, won the first place prize at University of Idaho’s VIEW Entrepreneurship competition, and took top awards at the Washington State University business plan competition on April 17. It also won the University of Idaho's the Wells Fargo Elevator Pitch Competition in March.

“Our team was thrilled to be part of the first cross-functional business plan team between WSU MBA students and the University of Idaho," said team member Michele Vachon. "Not only did winning feel good, but the entire process was collaborative, interdisciplinary and transformational to our educational experience. Each team member brought their own unique strengths – in microbiology, law, MBA, environmental science – and we worked really well together preparing for these competitions."

Vachon said this was the best experience of her graduate education. "I hope the business plan continues into perpetuity; it is a valuable addition to our regular classes and very important to keep that entrepreneurial spirit alive in this economy," she said.

The first-place team consisted of Vachon, a graduate student in environmental science from Vero Beach, Fla.; Jacob Pierson, a graduate in the college of science from Boise; Brandon Holbrook, a second-year law student from Sacramento, Calif.; and Siris Silva and Brad Hanson, students in Washington State University’s MBA program. The team will split the $7,000 grand prize.

Thunder Engineered Products was awarded second place in the innovative ventures track for its development in a turbine-powered, electric hybrid system that can lead to renewable, cleaner and more efficient energy. The $3,000 cash prize is shared by team members Jed Bartlett, a senior in mechanical engineering from Creston, B.C.; William "Mac" Reynolds, an undergraduate in engineering from Boise; and Casey Neumeyer, a junior in agriculture and life sciences from Naples.

“I wanted to be able to broaden my horizons as an engineer,” said Bartlett. “If I was going to really advance as an engineer, I was going to need more education in business development and decision making, and this program offered that opportunity for me. The business plan itself was very exciting because I was able to take an idea I had been working on for some time from an engineering standpoint, and put it into a business model context to see how it would work out. The VIEW program and the University of Idaho's engineering department together have given me a powerful set of tools that I can take with me to build the life that I want, and pursue the goals that I want.”

As the top winners in the competition, both Lucid Diagnostics and Thunder Engineered Products will advance to the Idaho Tech Launch Competition on May 27 in Boise, where they will compete against student teams from Boise State University, Idaho State University and other Idaho colleges.

“The feedback from the students was that even if they didn’t win the cash prize, they walked away from the experience with more confidence and the desire to become an entrepreneur,” said Linda Morris, director of VIEW. “That’s the success of the 2009 competition – to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit among innovative students and encourage them to pursue their dreams.”

The innovative ventures track was sponsored by Dietmar and Pauline Kluth. Dietmar is a 1966 alumnus of university’s College of Business and Economics. The Kluths have contributed a total of $50,000 to the Business Plan Competition to fund $10,000 in prize money each year for five years.

“I thought that the students were highly motivated and engaged, and found this to be a rewarding learning experience,” said Kluth. “I’m still processing all the good things that went on at this year's business plan competition. I continue to be amazed and delighted by the momentum and enthusiasm.”

Greg Brown, one of the judges in the Innovative Ventures track, and a partner in The CapRock Group, a venture capital company, commended the students in the competition on a great job all around. “This year was no exception to the level of quality and energy surrounding the event from start to finish. It was the 14th BPC I have judged to date – most of them at substantially larger schools – and it stacked up quite well against them," he said.

First place in the Business Plan Competition's social entrepreneurship track was awarded to Backyard Harvest for their work in providing communities across the nation with the tools to provide healthy, sustainable, low-cost food choices to families and seniors in need. A $2,000 prize is shared by team members Amy Grey, a general studies undergraduate from Moscow; and Ben Wood, as senior in business finance from Coeur d’Alene.

Second place in the social entrepreneurship track was awarded to the University of Idaho Jazz Festival team for its venture to establish this educational program as a self-sustaining operation through a unique business model. Team members included Jordan Greene, a senior in business Boise; Tommy Sauriol, a senior in business from Eagle; Sam Abrams, a senior in business from Moscow; Anna Buchiere, a senior in communications from Orting, Wash.; .; Alisha Puckett, a junior in journalism and mass media from Coeur d'Alene; Jeremy Wemple, a senior in information systems from Coeur d'Alene, and Behren Aydt, junior in accounting from Coeur d’Alene. They received a $1,000 cash prize and will use their winnings for their summer trip to Macedonia, where they will work with local business students on a curriculum project.

The Best Small Business Start-ups Award of $2,500 was given to Idaho Fly Fishing Company, a fly shop with an ice cream and deli sandwich counter that is located on the banks of the St. Joe River in Avery. Unlike most specialty fly shops, this company will offer an extensive demo program for fishers, sightseers, campers and other recreational groups. Team members include Dan and Meladi Mottern, seniors in the college of natural resources from Deary.

The second place $500 prize for small business start-ups was given to Traversify, a new universal travel and rideshare Web site that will allow users to post destinations, provide driving details, and seek compensation for those in need of a ride. Team members included Bryant MacMahon, a freshman in business from Boise, and Tony Kanago, a freshman in computer sciences from Spokane Valley, Wash.

The competition included 42 students on 14 teams from eight of the university's colleges, and the students ranged from freshman to graduate students.

"The 2009 VIEW Business Plan Competition reflected another year of growth in competing teams, but the most satisfying point this year is that we had more multi-disciplinary teams from all colleges, including law,” said Morris. "That is VIEW’s primary goal – to meld the technical/scientific/artistic/legal with the business aspects of starting a new venture. Also, I was especially pleased that the competing teams ranged from freshman to graduate students. These students all accepted the challenge by devoting many hours in preparing their plans and then they expected to be grilled by some very experienced judges who have heard hundreds of business proposals throughout their careers."

"A special thanks to our judges for their feedback and encouragement, and the entire faculty and staff from WSU and University of Idaho College of Business and Economics that helped us along the way," said Vachon.

During the four years since the Vandal Innovation and Enterprise Works (VIEW) program began at the University of Idaho, students and faculty have used VIEW to find the inspiration, skills, resources, connections and entrepreneurial mindsets to move innovation from classrooms and laboratories into the marketplace. For more information, e-mail VIEW or call (208) 885-6478.