BPC Celebrates 20 Years of Student Startups

Christina Lomasney keynote at UW Business Plan CompetitionEntrepreneurship is a tough gig. And Christina Lomasney, the co-founder and CEO of Seattle-based Modumetal and the keynote speaker at this year’s UW Business Plan Competition dinner, has faced her share of challenges. The physics graduate, who saw the potential for new nanolaminated alloys to fight corrosion in the oil and gas industry, has had to fight an industry that frowns on innovation, a fire that destroyed her first manufacturing plant, and the crushing news that Modumetal’s invention had already been invented by another firm. “I thought entrepreneurship was about the technology,” she said, “but that’s not true. It’s all about the team.”

And it was the Modumetal team that convinced the industry to recognize a game-changing technology, rebuilt the manufacturing plant, and bought the competitors’ patent. “Entrepreneurship isn’t a tiny statement about all the things that we want to accomplish and a vision that we’re pursuing, or the goals that we hope to achieve,” she said during her speech at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry. “It is about all of the things that it takes to actually get there.”

Greg Newbloom, the CEO of Membrion, the team that won the $25,000 BPC grand prize this year, would certainly agree.  “We got eliminated from the Sweet 16 last year,” he said, “but this year we had so much more depth of experience.”  Membrion , which makes low-cost, high-efficiency membranes for redox flow batteries, included UW chemical engineering and business students. The team was also awarded the Xinova $2,500 “Best Idea for the Future” prize.

“Maybe some people decide right away they want to be an entrepreneur, but for me, an opportunity presented itself and I decided to take that opportunity,” said chemical engineering PhD student Ryan Kastilani. “The best way to do a startup is to do a startup. It’s been a great experience.”

Discovery Health won the $10,000 Fran’s Chocolates Second Place Prize for its comprehensive medical risk management program for the maritime industry. The Seattle University team featured students with business and medical backgrounds. “When I think about where we were three months ago, this is unbelievable,” said 2018 EMBA student Ann Jarris. “It was an incredibly valuable experience to have that coaching and learn the language of the entrepreneurial community.”

LC-Tourniquet won the $7,520 “Friends of the BPC” Third Place Prize for its pre-hospital treatment for trauma that blocks blood flow to a limb. The “Limb Chilling Tourniquet” was developed by a faculty member who brought an MBA student onto the team.

EpiForAll, fresh off its grand prize finish at the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge, earned the $5,000 Fenwick & West Fourth Place Prize. The team of mechanical engineering, business, and pharmacy students from UW showcased its affordable emergency epinephrine auto injector that uses inexpensive, easily-replaced ampules. EpiForAll also won the DLA Piper $2,500 “Best Idea with Global Reach” Prize.

More than 2,500 students representing colleges and universities around the state have competed since 1998 in the UW Business Plan Competition. This year’s competition featured 82 teams from 12 colleges and universities around the state and involved 598 judges, coaches, and mentors from the entrepreneurial, venture capital, and angel investing community.

The Awards Dinner at MOHAI also featured moments of tribute to outgoing Buerk Center director Connie Bourassa-Shaw. She spent two decades growing student entrepreneurship at UW through a significant expansion of Buerk Center programs, academics, and competitions.

Read about the other prizes awarded at the competition HERE.