U of A Sweeps Graduate Places at Governor's Cup Competition

From left: Cynthia Sides, David Zaharoff, Sean Smith, Drew McKinnon, Amy Hardwick, MJ Orellano, Carol Reeves, Corey Coston, Alan Ellstrand, Senior Associate Dean Anne O¹Leary-Kelly, and interim Dean Matt Waller.
Photo by Beth Hall

From left: Cynthia Sides, David Zaharoff, Sean Smith, Drew McKinnon, Amy Hardwick, MJ Orellano, Carol Reeves, Corey Coston, Alan Ellstrand, Senior Associate Dean Anne O¹Leary-Kelly, and interim Dean Matt Waller.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – University of Arkansas teams swept all three places Tuesday in the graduate division at the 2016 Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

VivImmune, a start-up biotechnology company that specializes in immunotherapy for bladder cancer, finished in first place and won $25,000. The company also won the AT&T Elevator Pitch Contest for $2,000 and the Delta Plastics Innovation Award for $5,000.

Actio Systems, which developed a patient reminder and intelligent rescheduling smartphone app for medical clinics and their patients, placed second and took home $15,000.

Third place and $10,000 went to deciLvl, a company using metamaterial research out of MIT to filter out harmful audio signals in noisy environments.

The Governor's Cup is the premier collegiate entrepreneurship competition in Arkansas. It was established in 2001 to challenge students who have ideas for new or better products or services. The goal is to see if the students can put their idea through a rigorous and real-world entrepreneurial process to create a profitable company.

VivImmune and Actio Systems will advance to the Donald W. Reynolds Tri-State Awards May 25-26 in Las Vegas, where the teams will compete against the top two graduate teams from Nevada and Oklahoma.

This year, 37 teams from 11 Arkansas colleges and universities submitted business plans in the competition for a share of the $152,000 prize pool. Prizes were awarded at a luncheon at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock. 

Under the guidance of Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship, the U of A’s competitive graduate student teams have won more than $2.3 million in cash at state, regional, national and international business plan competitions since 2002.

“We’re proud of all our teams,” Reeves said. “They’ve worked really hard this year, and we’re excited about representing our state in Las Vegas next month.”

VivImmune, Actio Systems and deciLvl formed last fall in the New Venture Development graduate course taught by Reeves, holder of the Cecil and Gwendolyn Cupp Applied Professorship in Entrepreneurship in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

VivImmune grew out of the research and intellectual property from the lab of David Zaharoff, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the U of A.

The VivImmune team includes:

  • Corey Coston, an executive M.B.A. student in Walton College
  • Andrew McKinnon, an executive M.B.A. student in Walton College
  • Sean Smith, a doctoral student of biomedical engineering in the College of Engineering

Six students in the executive Master of Business Administration program in the Walton College formed the other two winning teams: MJ Orellano, Amy Hardwick, Matt Gow and Brett Thoms of Actio Systems, and JP Marzana, Anthony Sager, Don Walsh and Tara Shaw of deciLvl.

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.

Contacts

Carol Reeves, associate vice provost for entrepreneurship
Research and Economic Development
479-575-6220, creeves@uark.edu

Kevin Scherer, communications and outreach director
Research and Economic Development
479-575-8766, scherer@uark.edu

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