Archive for May, 2009
In 1999 I competed in the first annual business plan competition at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. This competition was the brainchild of my friends Keval Desai and Melissa Daniels. Keval had to convince Jerry Engel, then the Executive Director for the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is housed at Haas. I am grateful that Keval succeeded in convincing Jerry, since the competition helped me raise money for my first Internet company, Hotpaper.com. Had there not been a competition, I wouldn’t have been able to sell Hotpaper when I did, in August of 2000. So in a very real sense, my success in life, limited though it may be, is tied directly to the Haas business plan competition.
As a result, I am a fervent supporter of the competition. I’ve sponsored it annually since I participated, and I’ve been a semi-final judge since about 2005. Earlier today, the finalist teams for the 11th annual business plan competition presented their plans in a public event at the Haas School of Business. The school published its video on YouTube, which I’ve embedded below. It’s a long video, but very worthwhile. I was one of the judges that advanced the first and third place teams to the finals, so I saw the more detailed presentations the teams make in private to the judges.
The AutoTB presentation in particular really is moving. They propose to make an automated device that will allow a lay person to diagnose in twenty minutes whether a person has tuberculosis. The current way this disease is diagnosed requires a trained specialist, and the diagnosis takes days to make. Many people in the developing world can’t get to clinics easily, so many people that are tested never pick up their results. Tuberculosis is one of the biggest killers on earth, so Auto TB really has the potential to change the world. Amazingly, their device has a target price of just $500 – not thousands or tens of thousands like many medical devices.