Three Stevens School of Business graduate students have won the Grand Prize in a business competition hosted by the University of New Mexico in late April, sharing $20,000 in prize money.
The three-day virtual Global Scaling Challenge included 17 graduate, undergraduate and Ph.D. teams from India, Austria, England and the U.S. creating strategies for three real-world biological companies hoping to expand or otherwise scale up their operations.
New ideas for new products, markets
Selected and advised by business professor Gary Lynn, the trio was only given two weeks to research, prepare and present new ideas to differentiate and scale three small to medium-sized companies working in various biological areas.
Participating teams were allotted 10 minutes on each competition day to present their novel strategies for growing each company to a panel of judges, which included the companies' leaders and other venture capitalists and experienced CEOs, followed by 10 additional minutes of questions from those executives about operational details, markets and strategy.
"We conducted several hundred hours of extensive research on the three companies and their business spaces, while also balancing full-time work and finals season," recalls Kain. "A major challenge was appropriately condensing the market analysis, strategy recommendation and risk assessment into a 10-minute presentation before industry experts."
The first day of the virtual three-day competition required each team to present a growth strategy for Build With Robots, a company that manufactures a sanitizing robot. Led by Indelicato, the team focused on high-traffic areas such as schools, medical centers and fitness facilities and strategized technology to develop smaller, less expensive robots by using a franchise-business model. The strategy earned first place for Best Scaling Solution and moved the Stevens team to the second round.
"The sanitation robot business exposed us to issues we didn’t know existed, and pushed us to learn numerous facets of the industry," notes Indelicato.
On the second day, teams were tasked with developing a strategy for BennuBio, a company that manufactures flow cytometers for cell analysis and drug discovery. Here Odaimi took the lead, proposing a pathbreaking idea: repurposing the company's medical industry-focused technology to a new target market, municipal wastewater treatment plants that must detect bacteria and other pathogens in the nation's nearly 150,000 water-treatment systems.
"This was a Senior Design experience 2.0," Odaimi says. "Presenting this idea was a risk, since it veered away from the market focus of the company. However, I was extremely passionate about the proof of concept and committed to applying an advanced technology to improving the accessibility of clean drinking water worldwide."
That strategy earned the trio its second first-place prize, Best Strategy for Opportunity Identification, and allowed the team to move on to the finals on the third day. (The company's management also asked the team to forward its presentation for a closer look.)
For the championship round, led by Kain, team members created a strategy for Wildlife Protection Management, a company that remotely administers vaccines and other medications to animals using targeted darts. The strategy focused on simultaneously working to capture superior market share of the feral horse market while also adapting the technology and expanding to potential agricultural-sector customers who continually cope with diseases in cows, pigs and other livestock.
That presentation earned a first-place tie as overall Grand Champion and shares of a $20,000 prize. The group later also decided to build on the momentum of its victory to form a new national nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and promoting scaling challenges and competitions.
"I am so proud of Brianne, Teny and Eric," says Lynn. "Their hard work paid off. Winning this competition stretched them — and me. They are a great reflection on Stevens."
Preparing students to succeed
All three team members credit Stevens with preparing them to succeed in the competition.
"My undergraduate degree is in engineering, so I was uncertain how I would handle transitioning into business," says MBA student Indelicato. "Every professor has been incredibly supportive in a way that directed my education toward the real world. Stevens has pushed me to do things beyond the scope of the classroom and welcomed me into a community."
"Thanks to the talent and caring of my professors, I learned to challenge myself in foreign territory. This competition was the best possible way to cap off an experience here," agrees Kain, who will continue to work full-time in Stevens' Office of Undergraduate Admissions following graduation. "We are so grateful for the invaluable mentorship we were given by Dr. Lynn. He inspired us to be the best versions of ourselves and challenged us because he believed in our potential to succeed.
"The Management program provided us with a skillset of management in different areas that gave us the foundation to succeed in this challenge."
"I truly enjoyed working with brilliant students and faculty to tackle the unknown and develop solutions in the most graceful and effective ways," adds Odaimi, who has been accepted to the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and will begin in fall 2021. "Speaking from experience, Stevens prepares you to enter any career of your dreams.
"Not only do we graduate with a concrete skillset, but we also exude the confidence and strength to overcome any challenges."