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Precision Slip Wins Executive Summary Competition

Precision Slip, a concept-stage business that plans to manufacture a laboratory-proven, drag-reducing, marine coating capable of slashing fuel consumption by at least 40 percent in a typical merchant ship, has won the fifth annual Executive Summary Competition, staged by the UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative (UMass EI). Precision Slip received the first prize of $3,500, plus another $500 for the People’s Choice Award, voted on by the audience. The Precision Slip team consists of mechanical engineering graduate student Robert Daniello and his faculty advisor, Professor Jonathan Rothstein of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department (MIE).

The drag-reducing coating has been developed in the lab of Dr. Rothstein, an expert on “Turbulent Drag Reduction Using Ultra-hydrophobic Surfaces,” a key area of nanotechnology that has the potential for creating fuel savings in surface vessels of a quarter to one-third of the fuel currently being used. He received a grant of $300,000 to do that research through a prestigious Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award.

On March 24th, five judges awarded thousands of dollars in seed capital to aspiring student entrepreneurs during the fifth Executive Summary Competition, which is sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA).  The purpose of the competition is to recognize the most talented and committed collegiate entrepreneurs. Competition winners receive cash prizes and opportunities for advanced entrepreneurial mentoring. Judges look for entrepreneurs with the strongest business proposition and ability to execute. 

Prior to the competition, a screening committee decided on the finalists, and, during the public event on March 24, each finalist gave a 90-second "elevator pitch" and then answered questions from the judges. Participants must be current undergraduates, graduate students (full-time or part-time), or recent (within 5 years) alumni of the participating schools: UMass Amherst, Smith College, Hampshire College, or Mt. Holyoke College.

The competition consisted of several different types of businesses ranging from high-tech solutions for today’s problems to socially responsible business ideas.  The second-place prize of $500 went to Localocracy, a web-based platform for political discussion in which users living in a particular community can post and rank responses to their local issues. The team includes Conor White-Sullivan, Benjy Messner, and faculty advisor M.J. Alhabeeb, a professor in the Resource Economics Department.

Third place went to the Andanje Foundation, which seeks to provide computers and learning technology to youth in remote regions of developing nations, starting with seven pilot programs in Kenya. The goal is to use computer literacy and technological learning strategies to open doors of opportunity to critically underserved children. The team includes Elly Tuti, Jennie D’Ambroise, and Eric Mwangi.

Other finalists included two companies with College of Engineering ties: Apera Solutions, a technology integration firm run by MIE graduate student Jon Black, which is developing a process that enables a synergy of industrial efficiency, renewable power, and renewable fuels within the ethanol and wind markets; and MicroTissues, whose faculty advisor is Professor Susan Roberts of the Chemical Engineering Department, a company that is trying to commercialize the 3-D Petri dish, a proprietary new tool for the life sciences industry. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Carabase Training, ComfyCutter, CookIt, Dry-A-Ways, E-Z Laundry, GloSkirts, iSpy, Khross Clothing, RaveWave Club Effects, and Shepherd.

The competition's judges were: Denise Dukette (Director of Lending at Western Mass. Enterprise Fund), Joseph Steig (Director, Venture Well and CFO, Long River Ventures, Co-Founder of the River Valley Investors and EI), Paul Gelinas (CEO at Zippy Blue LLC, Member of the River Valley Investors), Steve Willis (Co-founder of Wellfleet Communications and Argon Networks), and DR Widder (Principal at Milestone Strategies Group).

The mission of the UMass EI is to help students turn ideas into businesses. The organization inspires students to explore the entrepreneurial career path, trains them in how to evaluate their ideas, and then connects them to the resources needed to take the first steps in starting their own businesses. Students participating in UMass EI's program have opportunities to earn academic credit, win prize money, and connect with experienced mentors. (March 2009)