Tulane Startups Win Top Prizes at 14th Annual Business Model Competition

TEAThe culmination of the now regional Tulane Business Model Competition hosted finalists InVision Biomedical, Tympanogen and Million Dollar Scholar, all vying for the grand prize of $25,000 and an opportunity to enter the International Business Model Competition as a semi finalist.

The newly redesigned competition, now in its fourteenth year, was about rewarding teams for breaking down their idea into a key business model hypotheses, testing their assumptions with customers, applying Customer Development / Lean Startup principles to make sure they nail their solution, and learning to pivot until they have a customer-validated business model.

Up first was InVision Biomedical, company that wants to develop safe and low-cost medical devices for critical care patients. Christopher Cover and Nicholas Chedid dually pitched their product, the EZ-View. The tube was created to help better perform surgical procedures such as the tracheostomy while eliminating inherent complications.

The team discussed their pivots and customer-validation during the fifteen minute presentation. InVision in comprised of five Tulane students and alums in the biotechnology world who believe that the EZ-View can save their target customers, hospitals, over $700 million with the “future gold standard” device.

Parastoo Khoshakhlagh pitched on behalf of life sciences company Tympanogen, which is commercializing a gel patch developed at Tulane University, called Perf-Fix™, for non-surgical repair of chronic tympanic membrane (eardrum) perforations.

There are one million related surgeries per year resulting in need for a repair method with a higher success rate, and the Perf-Fix™ patches do just that at one tenth of the price. Each patch will cost about $1,800 (up from the company’s original set price of $200), much less than current standard pricing for surgical repair, which is $18,000.

Using the lean startup model, Tympanogen pivoted to better suit customers’ needs according to over 100 surveyed parents and potential patients. “We are the one and only non surgical procedure for this problem,” and it has tremendous possibilities. One judge asked whether this could be used outside of the the eardrum. Khoshakhlagh said it can be used anywhere on the body.

The third and final pitch came from Derrius Quarles, CEO of Million Dollar Scholar, the education technology and services venture that addresses higher education affordability by providing students with an online platform to learn how to become successful in the scholarship application process.

Quarles understood the gains of getting scholarships to college and ended up partnering with his co-founder who realized the pains of having no scholarships. The duo considers their platform the “Khan Academy meets Kaplan Test Prep,” and their main product is Million Dollar University, which helps students with writing and scholarship resumes.

Through their research, the company found the major pain point for parents was affordability. Million Dollar Scholar set out to make it easier for students to acquire scholarships after they have targeted which they qualify for. “It’s a very simple solution to a very complex problem,” said Quarles during the final pitch.

Members from Tulane Entrepreneurs Association presenting the $25,000 check to Tympanogen. Photo by @neworleansbio.

Members from Tulane Entrepreneurs Association presenting the $25,000 check to Tympanogen. Photo by @neworleansbio.

The winners were announced at the annual Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneur’s Gala, which also honors the Tulane Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year (awarded to Adelaide “Ti” Martin of the Commander’s Family of Restaurants), the Tulane Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs of the Year (Dana L. Day and Stanley R. Day, Jr.), and recognizes the winners of the NewDay Challenge (first place prize of $10,000 went to Trash to Treasure, second place and $5,000 went to ComeFail).

Second place at the Tulane Business Model Competition, along with a check for $10,000, was awarded to InVision Biomedical.

The team of engineers and physicians at Tympanogen took home the grand prize of $25,000 and entrance into the International Business Model Competition as a semi finalist, which is headquartered at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

“The product was very viable, they had strong margins and there was a lack of competition, whereas some of the other competitors had some stiff competition,” Chris Papamichael, a final round judge, said following pitches. “Tympanogen just seemed to be the most viable.”

Although the company left empty handed from the Tulane final round, Million Dollar Scholar has been participating in a number of other competitions and just last week won $25,000 at the University of Maryland’s Social Innovation Challenge.

The Business Model Competition is a flagship event for the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association (TEA), part of the A.B. Freeman School of Business, an organization that actively seeks to promote “purpose-driven” entrepreneurial activity at Tulane and within the local community.

TEA President Adrian Mendez is excited for the future of the competition. The competition has always been an important way to connect students to the entrepreneurial movement across the region. “As the program grows, we hope to continue to motivate and inspire students to be on the forefront of entrepreneurial activity with the resources we provide.”

Click here to read all the tweets from the final round pitches.