U of A Student Team Takes First at Tri-State Business Plan Competition
(l to r) Andrew Miles, Witness Martin, Willie Evans, Sam Walls Jr., Ting Zheng, Stonie Hopkins, and Carol Reeves
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Grox Industries, a business formed by University of Arkansas students to develop next-generation, energy-efficient glass coatings for residential and commercial windows, was awarded a $30,000 prize with their first-place finish in the graduate division of the 10th Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Collegiate Business Plan Competition.
The competition was held Wednesday, May 31, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team competed before a national panel of judges against 11 other top business teams from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Nevada, all vying for a cash prize pool of $114,000.
The win caps a season of success for the Grox Industries team, which took first place in the University of Manitoba’s Stu Clark Investment Competition, first in a challenge round at the Rice University Business Plan Competition, and second place in the Arkansas Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup as well as that competition’s innovation award. In total, the team earned $71,000 in prize money in the 2016-17 competition season, coached by Carol Reeves, who teaches the U of A’s New Venture Development courses.
“Tough business plan competitions like the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup and Tri-State events are about much more than the prize money,” said Reeves, who is associate vice provost for entrepreneurship and the Cupp Applied Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Department of Management. “To compete, students must create a real, viable company and learn how to pitch to real investors, answer rigorous questions, cope with rejection and work as a team. These are the ingredients of successful entrepreneurship.”
“Developing a new technology for the market is challenging under the best of circumstances,” said Grox Industries CEO Andrew Miles, an executive M.B.A. student in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “The entrepreneurship program has been instrumental in pulling together the people and resources needed to get Grox off the ground, and to equip us with the skills to secure investments, protect our intellectual property, and compete for customers.”
The core technology behind the business, a unique production method for the nanomaterial graphene oxide, was developed in the lab of U of A chemistry professor Ryan Tian. Grox Industries has developed a custom, graphene oxide-based window coating line called Helios. Compared to other coatings on the market, Helios absorbs more damaging ultraviolet light, while allowing more aesthetically pleasing visible light to pass through the window. The team’s winnings will support further research and development as they establish their first revenue streams.
In addition to Miles, the team includes:
- Witness Martin, who recently completed a master’s degree in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering.
- Ting Zheng, who received her master’s degree in accounting in the Walton College.
- Willie Evans, who received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.
- Stonie Hopkins, who is enrolled in the executive M.B.A. program.
The Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State competition is an invitation-only event for the first- and second-place winners in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup state collegiate business plan competitions in Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma.
University of Arkansas Executive M.B.A. student Tiffany Jarrett, whose team Rejuvenics Technologies is developing a platform for improving the targeted delivery of cancer therapeutics, took first place in the graduate division of the 90-second elevator pitch competition, winning a $2,000 cash prize.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
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