Apr 28, 2010
Seven teams of Carnegie Mellon University students delivered their very best elevator pitches to a panel of judges for Heinz College's 2010 Keith Block Entrepreneurship Fund Competition.
Made possible through a contribution by Heinz College alumnus Keith Block, the competition challenges students to develop and pitch a proposal for an entrepreneurial venture that solves a problem, has a significant IT component, and represents a viable growth-oriented startup with national and international appeal.
1st Place: Lama Lab
Team Members: Tracey Chiu (MSHC), Lukas Bouvrie (MBA)
Idea: A cloud-based platform to help small and medium online retailers in real time. This platform uses proprietary algorithms to optimize retailers’ efforts in three important areas of e-commerce: Pricing, Inventory Management, and Marketing. For each area, Lama Lab will recommend actionable items, allow users to implement these recommendations with the click of a button, and track the effects of the implemented recommendations.
2nd Place: Only in Pittsburgh Network
Team Members: Brett Wiewiora (MSPPM), Ajinkya Ratnaparkhi (MISM)
Idea: An online social network that visually connects people to what is going on in and around Pittsburgh. By providing a platform for local businesses and organizations to publicize specials, events and other promotional information along with a platform for individuals to see where their friends are, organize parties, meetings and events, OIP creates a unique online “neighborhood” in a way that no other current social network is doing successfully.
3rd place – Sociofins
Team Members: Kartik Bhatia (MISM), Sandeep Francis Earayil (MISM), Sreeja Meluveettil (MISM), Sunil Joseph (MISM)
Idea: A platform that utilizes specialized social networking to provide microfinance to small and medium business.
This year’s judges included Reed McManigle, manager of Carnegie Mellon University’s Technology Transfer Office; Chris Labash, who teaches communication, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Heinz College; and Greg Lagana, director of projects at Heinz College's Center for Economic Development. This year’s competition was organized and hosted by Babs Carryer, who teaches entrepreneurship at both Heinz College and CMU's Tepper School of Business, and advises student and faculty entrepreneurs from the Institute for Social Innovation and Project Olympus.
Carryer sees the competition as an important chance for students to try out the role of entrepreneur.
"The Block Competition gives students the opportunity to present innovative ideas for new technologies and products," said Carryer. "By working together, cross discipline, students have the chance to solve real world problems using what they learn at Carnegie Mellon."
"The competition is part of the university’s efforts to stimulate entrepreneurial activity across the campus," she said.
Keith Block is executive vice president of Oracle’s North American Sales and Consulting.
"My experience at Carnegie Mellon instilled in me a lifelong spirit of entrepreneurship," noted Block when he originally presented his gift. "For that, I will always be grateful. Entrepreneurship is a crucial element for success at any level -- regardless of company size or industry."
"It's about never settling, constantly driving for innovation and always striving for new and better ways of doing things," said Block.
For more information on the competition, read the Keith Block Entrepreneurship Fund submission guidelines.
(Photo: 2010 Block competition winners Tracey Chiu and Lukas Bouvrie.)
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