It’s never too early to encourage college students to find a way to turn an idea into a viable business, according to the Lally School of Management. To support this concept, the Lally School hosted a business model competition for undergraduate and graduate students last month. With over $15,000 in cash and in-kind services available, six student teams took the top prize.

“The Lally School has a long history of fostering entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership,” said Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School.

“We are fortunate to have a highly experienced group of entrepreneurs as coaches and judges and the competition offers a great way for students to pitch their ideas to people who have successfully navigated the start-up waters. Most importantly, it promotes an entrepreneurial mindset and encourages students to believe that starting a business is within their capabilities.”

Formerly known as the Rensselaer Business Plan Competition, the goal for the Business Model Competition is to provide student entrepreneurs with the opportunity to improve their business through workshops, customer interviews, coaching, feedback, and live practice sessions in preparation for the myriad competitions held annually each spring across the nation.

This year, 11 student teams had the opportunity to pitch their budding ideas to a panel of judges with varying backgrounds in entrepreneurship and business.

The shift from a business plan competition to a business model competition is driven by the recognition that the best way to learn entrepreneurship is by engaging in the best practices of being an entrepreneur.”—Jason Kuruzovich

“The shift from a business plan competition to a business model competition is driven by the recognition that the best way to learn entrepreneurship is by engaging in the best practices of being an entrepreneur. These practices recommend ‘getting out of the building’ to speak with customers and to understand their need,” said Jason Kuruzovich, academic director of the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship.

“Such an understanding cannot be developed from a plan, and very often entrepreneurs no longer need a formal business plan to be successful or even to obtain financing,” Kuruzovich said.

The winners in the undergraduate category are: Gapelia, which won first place for its plan to develop a collaborative story-telling platform that seeks to revive the world of publishing; Rollio, which won second place for their technology that would aggregate business trip planning into one visual, user-friendly tool that would help individuals to navigate the perfect business trip with a geospatial map of their agenda; and Gel-Lock, which won third place for its handgun locking system mechanism that would allow a bullet to be chambered while locked.

The winners in the graduate category are: Actasys, which won first place for its plans to develop technology that will to increase the aerodynamic performance of fleet vehicles without changing their shape; EnerMat-Tech, which won second place for its next-generation all-carbon lithium ion batteries for automotive applications, grid storage, and consumer electronics; and BioTerminus, which won third place for its nature-inspired approach to healthy living that uses biomolecules to target disease-resistant pathogens.