MSE students hope their big idea leads to big prize
Samantha Rosenbaum and Jarrod Schilling have experienced the pain of losing or almost losing their smartphones. But with that pain, came inspiration. And that inspiration could lead to a substantial payday.
Rosenbaum and Schilling, who have developed a device to help prevent the loss of smartphones, are one of 16 teams that have reached the semifinals of the Gator Business Plan Competition taking place Thursday and Friday. The winners of the competition will be awarded $25,000.
While attending a Startup Gauntlet Customer Discovery Bootcamp last year, Rosenbaum and Schilling learned that about 113 Americans lose their smartphones every minute. So the students co-founded WOOband, which is developing wristbands that flash and vibrate when smartphone owners get a certain distance away from their phone, Schilling said.
WOOband uses Bluetooth technology to pair with any smartphone or Bluetooth enabled device, Rosenbaum said. When the wristband and the mobile device become separated by more than 15 feet, the connection breaks causing the wristband to vibrate and flash. WOOband also has a rechargeable battery that can last up to 90 hours on a single two-hour charge.
“WOOband is the only reliable loss prevention technology on the planet,” Schilling said.
Semifinalists will present their business plans and answer questions from judges on Thursday. The business plans are judged on the concept’s strength, a market description, the economics of the business, operations, the management team and financing among other criteria.
The top four teams advance to Friday’s final round where they’ll present to a different panel of judges. The top three plans demonstrating the highest potential for growth and for gaining outside financing will win cash prizes, as well as the best technology-based venture and the best social venture.
Schilling (MSE ’14) and Rosenbaum (MSE ’13) said they are going to give their best efforts on the pitching floor.
“To win this competition would be a verification of the value of all the hard work, late nights and long hours that we have put into this company so far,” Rosenbaum said. “Jarrod and I have been working on this dream, bringing it from idea to reality, and getting this far in the competition proves we are headed in a positive direction.”
The competition, in its inaugural year, is designed to encourage students to be entrepreneurs, said Dr. Michael Morris, George and Lisa Etheridge Professor of Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
“We want to help students with entrepreneurial dreams move those dreams toward reality,” Dr. Morris said.
If WOOband wins the competition, Rosenbaum said they will use their winnings to propel the company out of the prototyping phase and into development and production, which includes a mandatory Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Bluetooth certification process, completion of the device’s technology chip and design.
“This competition definitely challenged us to dream bigger,” Rosenbaum said. “If you have a dream or a vision and you are willing to take the time, build a team and truly dedicate yourself to making it happen, anything is possible.”