Athens, Ga. — Ken Williams, a Terry College of Business MBA student with a concentration in entrepreneurship, earned top honors in a business plan competition between the University of Georgia and TI:GER—Georgia Tech and Emory’s interdisciplinary entrepreneurship program—at the Atlanta Technology Development Center on Monday, Nov. 29.
Williams, who earned $700 for taking first place, was one of several individuals and teams that presented three-minute pitches of their business plans to a panel of judges composed of six prominent entrepreneurs and angel investors in the Southeast: Rick Otness of Atlanta Technology Angels; Jeff Woodward of Stites & Harbison; Jerry Recht of National Personnel Services; Andy Monin of Vendor Mate; and Scott Burkett and Michael Blake, co-founders of StartupLounge.
“It felt great to win,” said Williams, whose winning business plan was for a hand-held device that determines whether an athlete has a concussion. “I was competing against people who had really great businesses and developed impressive pitches. It felt good to know that this product was comparable to those that were also really well prepared and delivered.”
In addition to his Terry MBA colleagues, Williams’ competition included teams from the TI:GER program. TI:GER, which stands for Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results, is a competitive interdisciplinary program that groups two Emory law students with two MBAs and a PhD student from Georgia Tech who form five-member teams with a two-year goal to commercialize the doctoral candidate’s research.
Williams’ winning plan was for T-BIT, which stands for Traumatic Brain Injury Test, a device that University of Georgia kinesiology professors Michael Ferrara and Phillip Tomporowski developed as part of an ongoing research project. The two professors initially contacted Georgia’s business incubation program Venture Lab, which in turn reached out to Terry Entrepreneurship Program director Chris Hanks to assist with taking the professors’ research tool and turning it into a viable business.
Hanks presented the idea as a potential project to the students in his business plan course. Williams asked for the opportunity, created a sound business plan and crafted a winning pitch.
“The idea was very topical and that helped him,” said Hanks, referring to Williams’ pitch which began with a compelling example of the effects of head injuries sustained in contact sports such as football. “He started the presentation with a reference to Nathan Stiles, a Kansas high school football star, 4.0 student and homecoming king who passed away hours after collapsing on the sidelines after a routine play. It was his first game back after spending a month recuperating from a concussion.”
Hanks explained that Williams’ ability to vividly illustrate a problem and show how his product could potentially prevent it was an effective method to connect with the venture capitalists on the panel. According to Hanks, it was one of many outstanding presentations from Terry, Georgia Tech and Emory students in an event that has tremendous value.
“People might say that it’s just a business plan competition. But the experience of designing a compelling business model and presenting it to some of the most influential people in the startup community is irreplaceable,” said Hanks, who noted that Terry’s overall showing generated praise from the venture community in attendance. “It gave us a really high standard to work toward.”