April 30, 2012
ECE Students Win Second Place in 2012 UNM Technology Business Plan Competition
Two UNM School of Engineering undergraduates recently took a senior design project all the way to the UNM Technology Business Plan Competition, competing against graduate teams with strong marketing backgrounds —and won second place.
The enterprise started when computer engineering students Phillip Garcia and Michael Darling designed an Android application for people with speech disabilities for their senior design project. They had solicited help from Rosario Roman, head of the Bilingual Multicultural Services, Inc. Therapeutic Center, who provided valuable advice for the project.
They were encouraged to join the UNM Technology Business Plan Competition by Ramiro Jordan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who saw potential in their app. “I had a gut feeling they were going to win first place,” Jordan says.
Next the students recruited business student Hardik Bhate and wrote a plan for a software company centered on their app and entered the competition. Their company – the only undergraduate team – won second place and a $10,000 prize to fund their start-up, Lonely Bloke Software LLC.
“I thought we were going to lose,” says Darling. “Three months ago, I didn't know what a business plan was.”
“It was a lot of work,” adds Garcia. “For the past few months, we've been pouring over reference materials to teach ourselves marketing, accounting, exit strategies, and more. I don't know how we got everything done in time. It helped to consult with Michael's sister, Sudha Darling, since she has a minor in marketing.”
Each team had to write a 30-page business plan and give presentations to panels of industry executives from companies including Lockheed Martin, Sandia, and Los Alamos National Laboratories.
The team was up against tough competitors, as all of the other teams were comprised of graduate students and there was only one other undergraduate student in the entire competition.
The team has also been encouraged by Dr. Jordan to enter the Global Student Design Challenges (GSDC) championed by the Ibero-American Science and Technology Consortium (www.istec.org). The goal of these challenges is to come up with an idea and take it all the way to commercialization.