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Student Entrepreneurs Awarded Seed Money in Business Plan Competition

On May 5, Bio::Neos, a bioinformatics software company founded by University of Iowa College of Engineering students, won the $5,000 first place award in the Merle Volding Business Plan Competition sponsored by the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center at the UI.

The awards are presented each year to UI students who have created business plans for proposed or new businesses. The awards are funded by Merle Volding, founder of BancTec, a worldwide provider of payment processing solutions located in Irving, Texas. Volding created an endowment for aspiring student entrepreneurs to compete for seed money to assist them in starting their new companies.

Teams were required to submit their applications by April 29. After reviewing the plans, a panel of judges heard oral presentations from finalists. The criteria included quality of the written plan and oral presentation, as well as the commitment the team had to actually starting the business.

The judges included Volding, JPEC Director David Hensley, UI Professor Jay Christensen-Szalanski, and John Buchanan, founder of RBP, a Marsh & Mclennan Company.

The Bio::Neos team of Steven Davis, Mike Smith, and Brian O'Leary presented a plan to provide software and support to genomics research groups. Bio::Neos, Inc. is a provider of bioinformatics software solutions and tools for biomedical research. The company's primary product, Bio::WebLab, aids researchers seeking to create a list of genes likely to be involved with particular genetic diseases. The company plans to take advantage of its close relationship with researchers in the UI College of Engineering's Coordinated Laboratory for Computational Genomics.

Davis, president and head programmer of Bio::Neos, is a UI research assistant who earned a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering in 2003. Partners Brian O'Leary and Mike Smith are electrical and computer engineering graduate students and senior programmers. Their office is in the Bedell Entrepreneurship Learning Laboratory (BELL) at 323 N. Clinton St. in Iowa City. JPEC provides free office space at the BELL for students who want to launch business ventures while studying entrepreneurship.

Runners-up in the competition included:

—Samantha and Matt Ternes received a $2,500 award for Corridor Fitness, which will offer personal training, daycare, tanning, nutritional supplements, and health counseling in the southern Cedar Rapids area. The company is currently housed in the BELL.

—Shawna Zibert and Jennifer Allen received a $1,000 award for their plan describing Boone Clothing Company, a manufacturer of artistic, high-end, 100 percent cotton apparel for infants, toddlers, and mothers. The company has an office in the BELL.

—Nic Hansen received $1,000 for his plan for a business called 1st Impression, a hospitality-focused advertising company specializing in ads on hotel key cards.

—Danielle Dahl, Valerie Lindquist, and Erin Cullision were awarded $1,000 for a plan proposing a female-oriented car maintenance center called Ladies Under the Hood. This shop would include a spa-like waiting room featuring an Internet cafĂ© and coffee house. The students have an office in the BELL.

—Brian Miller received an honorable mention for his plan to start a business called Super Tuff Products, manufacturer of high quality, durable drumsticks for the music industry.


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