Rutgers Professional Science Masters Students Present Business Plans at the Capstone Venture Forum

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On December 10, eleven experienced judge-coaches and an audience of students, alumni, visitors, faculty, and staff welcomed the student presenters at the Masters of Business and Science Capstone Venture Forum. Ten teams presented as audience members and judges armed with investor analysis sheets and $100,000 in “MBS Angel Investor Bucks” to put toward the most promising technologies, listened for the key business elements associated with success – technical feasibility, demonstrated understanding of the market, the competition, and profit potential, high value and exit flexibility for investors, social benefit, and other factors.  

The student teams presented business plans for a wide range of products and new technologies. Five of the ten pitches involved wearable technologies, including those for ballet dancers, football players, the stressed, the injured, and even those suffering from dry eye syndrome. All of these were meant to prevent injury or illness, including “Solesense”, which offered up a pressure sensing sock, anklet, and associated app that could give ballet dancers real-time coaching on their training technique designed to prevent dance related injuries. “The Cuddlefish company” proposed to develop the Cuddleband, a bandages that changes color to indicate tightness, which can help healthcare practitioners to avoid causing further injuries by applying bandages too tightly. The “Strest5” tracker provides feedback on stress levels in real time, while “Optic Zen” offered a contact lens that could sense and report on proteins in the eye signaling the need for more or less eye lubricating medication for dry eye syndrome sufferers. Finally, the “ProTechedTM” football helmet was designed to absorb pressure from head blows, as well as measure and report on the force of the impact, thus lowering risk of injury from the first hit and preventing the complicating risks of a second concussion.

The other five teams participating in the MBS Capstone Venture Forum presented products that included a “superfood” snack, new solar and water technologies, a new type of drone, and a product that helps fashion designers find fabrics more quickly. Filling a market need for healthy, tasty snacks, “Mana Force” packs blueberries into defatted soybean flour, creating a high polyphenol content. The team proposed to integrate an existing technology developed by scientists at Rutgers and North Carolina State University, called NutrasorbTM, allows for high levels of nutrient absorption. “Solectric-ev” presented on their proposed development of an innovative solar electric vehicle charger that has higher efficiency than competitors, while “WALter Technologies” team presented WALLY, new desalinization technology that can take brackish water and turn it into fresh, potentially addressing key drought concerns in California and elsewhere. The “Hoverfish” group, using exploration as its these, proposed to further develop and market a flying submersible drone for hobbyists, commercial uses (e.g. mapping oil, law enforcement) and military uses (e.g. mine detection). Finally, “Swatchfair” presented a pattern matching algorithm that can help fashion designers and consumers find fabric that has similar qualities to favorites they may find online or in their real world travels.

After each presentation, teams fielded questions from investors and audience members. One of the most common questions asked of teams was “what makes you qualified to be a management team?”.Another commonly asked question was, “what is the deal for investors? What is the exit strategy?” Investors also asked a lot of questions regarding the technical feasibility of some products, marketing plans, and the accuracy of the revenue and profit forecasting. For example, key questions included: “What is the visualization mechanism?” “How vulnerable is it to reengineering?”  “How do you get people to change from using what they are used to using to your product?” “What percentage of market share does your revenue projection cover?”

During the wrap-up discussion, the judge-coaches all stated how impressed they were with every presentation. As one judge noted, “You all provoked a lot of interest and enthusiasm, this is not always the case, so kudos to you!” Overall, judges thought the teams were well-prepared, covered the fundamentals, and presented compelling business cases in a succinct format. Several noted that they liked the focus many teams put on “the voice of the customer” and on explaining the supply chain, which is an important consideration for investors. The attention to social benefits was also appreciated. The judges also commented on how impressed they were with the overall skills and knowledge of team members, from their ability to respond to questions with data and evidence, to the real world accomplishments many team members have demonstrated in their current jobs.

Feedback the judges and audience had for students to consider that may improve their pitches included:

  • Put more thought into startup timelines and costs
  • Lead with your strengths and highlight your professional capabilities - investors care about the qualifications of the management team – you can’t say enough about your management capabilities, especially if you come from a science background!
  • Focus one slide on the characteristics of intellectual property (IP) and why you chose it,
  • Key data came out during discussions, but make sure data is in presentation. If it is not in presentation, you may sell yourself short.
  • Make sure the concept works.
  • Ask for more money – but make sure your numbers work. t good explanation of tech. then supply chain with in depth analysis, but shallow exploration of the technology itself. If you want to get my attn as an investor, tell me I can get 10 million from my investment, Focus on the exit, focus on the milestones, everything
  • Explain the technology more completely in the presentation.

At the end of the evening, the judges and audience members placed their investment of “MBS Angel Investor Bucks”. “WALter Technologies” was voted the most interesting technology by judges, while “Optic Zen” got an honorable mention. “Optic Zen” also got the honorable mention for most likely to succeed, but the top spot went to “Hoverfish”, the underwater drone.

While some presentations shined in particular respects, the judges and audience agreed that all of the teams presented their business ideas very well. As one judge noted, “Thanks for listening to our criticisms of your presentations. You made great progress in a short time, responded well to coaching…these are technologies most people can’t understand, let alone wrap a business plan around. Experts think many will work and, as one person said, all of them could be made to work. Congratulations!”