MSE Student Wins First Prize in GT Business Plan Competition
A team that can better remove heat from your electronic devices won Georgia Tech’s 2016 Startup Competition ($10,000 prize). The team, BanyanTech, consisting of MSE Ph.D. candidate Matt Smith, MBA students Akshay Ravi and Ajaay Ravi, as well as Emory law students Forrest Lind and Lorrin Stone.
BanyanTech, evolved through Georgia Tech’s Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results (TI:GER) program. The program teams Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business MBA students with Emory law students who work together on commercializing a Ph.D. student’s scientific research.
Banyan’s Matt Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech, said that his team was originally focused on material that connects computer CPUs to heat sinks in consumer electronics packaging but that “as a start-up we will need to break into a less established industry with small scale manufactures that are willing to implement startup materials into their product line”. Banyan has pivoted their focus to providing thermal solutions for the rapidly growing LED market.
The Startup Competition focuses on discovering a market opportunity and creating an innovative business model to address it. “Giving the pitches and getting feedback from the judges was a great experience as well as getting out of the building and talking to potential customers” said Smith. The competition is sponsored by Scheller College of Business and Georgia Tech’s Venture Lab.
Through the team’s research they discovered that the LED technology market for their product is approximately $400 million and that number is projected to grow to over $1 billion in 2020. One of the most valuable lessons the team learned, according to Smith, is that there are many factors besides technology that determine market acceptance. For example, consumer electronics companies are extremely reluctant to work with a start-up because they demand high volume. The team chose the LED technology market because “as a small scale materials supplier, it is key to find an industry where there are many players of all sizes and competition is strong; this will allow you to acquire customers one by one until you have achieved confidence and trust in your product and you can then go after the larger targets.”
The team plans on continuing to seek non-diluted funding to develop the technology. They are optimistic about the future and have already begun working with a local commercial entity for validation. Banyan will also continue to progress through the Georgia Tech TI:GER program. According to Smith, “TI:GER has broadened my thinking and provided me with an amazing team to bounce ideas off of and learn from.”
Eight teams competed in the Final Round of the Startup Competition on Wednesday, March 9 at Sandbox’s newest space, The Garage, a 9,000-square-foot clubhouse for the Tech Square community. TI:GER teams Lumenostics and Fox Three also won second and third place, respectively.
Most technology startups fail because they start executing before they have a proven business model, noted the competition organizers at Georgia Tech’s VentureLab. The Startup Competition helps position teams for success by requiring them to talk regularly to potential customers to ensure that they are developing a product or service that people want.
The 2016 Startup Competition judges include Sig Mosley of Mosley Ventures, Blake Patton of Tech Square Ventures, and Jonathan Goldman of GT VentureLab and the Georgia Research Alliance.