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UI Graduate Students Win $5,000 In Pappajohn Business Plan Competition

Two University of Iowa graduate students, Govindarajan Veeraraghavan and Omer Mermer, won a $5,000 seed capital grant in the statewide Pappajohn New Venture Business Plan Competition, earning one of the top honors among 12 competitors.

Veeraraghavan, a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Mermer, a graduate student in Physics and Astronomy, won the award for their company, OMR Sensors, which will develop interactive display units. They started the company with UI alumnus Thomas Francis and Assistant Professor Markus Wohlgenannt of the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The UI students won the grant March 3 in the competition at the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Iowa Conference in Ames. Nominations for the competition were collected through the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers and the 12 regional award winners were from the UI, Iowa State University, Drake University, the University of Northern Iowa and North Iowa Area Community College.

Venture capitalist John Pappajohn created the award program in 2000 to encourage and help Iowa college students pursue their interests in starting their own companies.

OMR Sensors Inc. is a spin-off based on research conducted at the Organic Semiconductor Device Research Group at the UI. The company intends to develop a prototype for an interactive display, a touch screen device that can be used in tablet computers, handheld devices such as PDAs and point-of-sale terminals where merchants can process credit or debit transactions. Veeraraghavan and Mermer plan to operate their company with federal research grant funds and create a prototype of a touch screen point-of-sale application within three years of startup.

Two UI student teams also received regional awards in the competition. Chris Meade, Tyler Scheppmann and Charles Matesi of The Turi Group/Remote Assurance Inc., have developed a security system for construction sites. The system allows construction owners and managers to view their projects via an Internet feed from a camera that captures an aerial view of the project. Fixed on top of a pole, a camera will capture an aerial view of the progress of a project while maintaining security.

UI student Michael Hubbard and alumnus David Oliver also won a regional award for LiveinIowaCity.com, a website that provides a centralized database of houses and apartments for rent in the Iowa City area. The site features search tools, detailed information about each listing and pictures. The site also includes an interactive forum for residents and potential residents to share information as well as the location of each property on an online map.

Two teams from Iowa State University also won $5,000 grants for their business plans to share top honors with the UI team.


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