University of Arkansas Sweeps Top Three Graduate Division Spots at Governor's Cup
Picasolar is congratulated by Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and state business leaders for winning the graduate division at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup. Matthew Young (from left to right), Picasolar; Seth Shumate, Picasolar; Rush Deacon, chairman, Arkansas Capital Corp.; Trish Flanagan, Picasolar; Beebe; Carol Reeves, faculty mentor, Picasolar; and John Rutledge, CEO, First Security Bank.
Picasolar, a team from the University of Arkansas that has developed a patent-pending process to improve the efficiency of solar cells, took the $25,000 first place prize Wednesday in the graduate division at the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup collegiate business plan competition.
Picasolar led a U of A sweep of the top three places in the graduate division in the 13th annual competition. HomeDx finished second and won $15,000. EverClean Coating Solutions LLC was third and took home $10,000, in addition to winning $5,000 for taking first in graduate division for the most innovative business plan.
This year, 47 teams submitted business plans from 13 colleges and universities from across Arkansas for a chance to win a share of the $154,000 prize pool. Prizes in the competition were awarded at a luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Picasolar and HomeDx will compete against the top two graduate teams from Nevada and Oklahoma for the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Award in May, where they will be competing to win a share of the $118,000 prize pool.
The U of A has won the graduate division at the Governor’s Cup 10 consecutive years, and placed the top three teams in the graduate division in three of the last four years.
Under the guidance of Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship, the university has fielded competitive graduate student teams at state, regional, national, and international business plan competitions since 2002. During the past decade, students have won nearly $1.4 million in cash at these competitions.
Picasolar’s technology, a hydrogen selective emitter invented by team member and chief technology officer Seth Shumate, could improve the efficiency of solar cells by 15 percent and could save manufacturers an estimated $5 million to $10 million annually per production line.
It was Picasolar’s second win this year. It took the grand prize and $20,000 at the IBK Capital-Ivey Business Plan Competition in January the University of Western Ontario. Earlier this month, Picasolar was a runner-up and won $2,500 at the annual New Venture Championship, hosted by the University of Oregon. The team left Little Rock Wednesday afternoon for Houston, where it is competing in the Rice Business Plan Competition.
Trish Flanagan, team member and president of Picasolar, said the team’s solar efficiency technology is drawing interest from investors.
“We’re seeing our hard work paying off on the competition circuit, but what we’re also really excited about is that we have real business development potential,” Flanagan said.
Picasolar includes Shumate, a doctoral student in the microelectronics-photonics program offered by the College of Engineering and J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences; Flanagan, a student in the concurrent master’s program in business administration and public service offered by the Sam M. Walton College of Business and the Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock; Matthew Young, a doctoral student in electrical engineering; and Michael Miller, a master of accountancy student in Walton College.
HomeDx, which would provide over-the-counter diagnostic tests for influenza, food intolerance, sexually transmitted diseases and other infectious diseases, is comprised of master of business administration students Max Mahler, Audra Mazzeo, Calvin Smith and Will Swearingen; and master of accounting student Daniel Cherry.
EverClean Coating Solutions LLC has created a self-cleaning coating technology for solar panels that improves efficiency. The team members are Bill Ryan and Manish Phogat, master in business administration students in the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Corey Thompson, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering. Ryan is in the executive M.B.A. program.
EverClean Coating Solutions will be competing in the final rounds at the Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge, scheduled for April 18-19 at the company’s home office in Bentonville. The winning team will receive a cash prize of $20,000.
All three teams formed in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Walton College.
Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship
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