Semi-Finalists Named in Wharton’s Business Plan Competition

A group of 25 entrepreneurs with ideas as diverse as an injectable beauty toxin that’s “better than Botox,” a pollution detector that uses zebra fish, solar “farm” equipment and an online platform for donations to teachers make up the 2009 Wharton Business Plan Competition. These semi-finalists will compete for more than $73,000 in prizes and the chance to present their business plan at the annual Venture Finals on April 29, 2009.

Perhaps the crippled economy had something to do with a 9% increase in participation this year over last; 366 students took part in the early phases of the competition. This year, the school says 38% of submissions were aimed at finding a solution to some social problem. For the semi-finals, judges from the business and venture capital community chose ventures–medical devices, regionally focused services, disease management therapies–that serve specific market niches. And, for the first time in the competition’s history, the judges selected a non-profit concept as well.

Here’s a look at some of the ideas in the running:

  • Neuroderma: Injectable toxin formation for better cosmetic results with fewer side effects
  • CuddleBots: Robotic toy and online community for kids and young adults
  • Sustainable Solar: Devices for landowners to turn unused property into solar “farms”
  • DocASAP: Online medical appointment scheduling service notifies patients of last-minute openings
  • Zecotech: Patented zebra fish risk assessment tool shows water pollution as live fish change color
  • Apples for Angels: Online system facilitating donations to teachers, who spend an average of $500/year out of pocket for needed supplies

The Wharton Business Plan Competition, which is open to any University of Pennsylvania student and managed by Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, has seen numerous student teams go on to become successful businesses over the past ten years. It will be interesting to see which of these ideas becomes the Next Big Thing.

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