Mendoza School of Business

Concussion-detecting device takes top prize in Notre Dame’s annual business plan competition

Published: April 23, 2013 / Author: Carol Elliott


After nine months of perfecting their business plans,
teams competing for nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes put it on all the line
Friday (April 19) at the Mendoza College of Business.

In a close contest among six finalists, Contect emerged
as the winner of the $25,000 McCloskey Business Plan Competition
Grand Prize. Christian Poellabauer and Patrick Flynn, faculty members in
Computer Science, presented their technology for a new, instantaneous, accurate
concussion assessment tool which will be particularly helpful in detecting
concussions in soldiers and athletes. The service captures an individual’s
voice and detects subtle changes that may indicate a concussion.

Sponsored by the Gigot
Center for Entrepreneurship
in the Mendoza College of Business, the
competition is for ventures that have not been launched or are in the earliest
stages of launch.

The top social venture award – the Klau Family Prize for
Greatest Social Impact – went to Green Bridge Growers, an urban aquaponics farm
designed as a social enterprise to produce revenue and create jobs for highly
capable young adults with autism in the South Bend community.  Mendoza’s undergraduate Social
Entrepreneurship class began working with Green Bridge founder Jan Pilarski last
fall as she began to address this very unique market opportunity in South Bend.

Karen Slaggert, associate director of the Gigot Center, believes
that every participant is a
winner.  “We are so very pleased with the
exceptional quality and diversity which was evident within our participants
this year. Our goal is to set these new ventures up for success in the market
by providing mentoring, networking, feedback and exceptional resources for each
team. We are particularly pleased that we continue to see a large number of
social ventures, those that seek to address a significant social concern.  These ventures are the embodiment of
Mendoza’s challenge to Ask More of
Business, Ask More of Yourself

“The plans presented this year were the best I have seen,” said Gigot Center Director Jeff Bernel. “They were diverse and intriguing, with each
one having the potential of becoming a sustainable and successful future

Mendoza students Luke Heneghan and Brad Kunisky were the
only undergraduate students to advance to the semifinal round, presenting Green
Energy Zambia, a social enterprise that seeks to provide affordable and
renewable energy sources for the Sub-Saharan African region of the world.  Current MBA students Konrad Billetz, Melissa
Cheng, Stephanie Pellerito and Ryan Welsh led their new venture, Frameri
Eyeglass Co., all the way to the final round of the competition, winning $36,000
in cash and in-kind prizes.

The top prize winners included:

McCloskey Grand Prize ($25,000): Contect, a new
instantaneous, accurate concussion assessment service designed to detect
incidences of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

McCloskey Runner-up prizes ($5,000 to

  • Frameri Eyeglass Co., an online Rx eyeglass and sunglass
    company that focuses on affordable, fashion-forward designs for glasses with
    interchangeable frames
  • Torigen Pharmaceuticals, a veterinary vaccine designed to
    combat adenocarcinoma based cancers, based upon technology created at Notre
    Dame by professor Mark Suckow

Klau Family Prize for Greatest Social Impact
  Green Bridge
Growers, an urban aquaponics farm designed as a social enterprise to
produce revenue and create jobs for highly capable young adults with autism in
the South Bend community.

Family Award for Best Presentation ($5,000):
Eyeglass Co

A total of 148 teams entered the McCloskey Competition
last fall. Nearly 700 members of the Notre Dame community served as team
members, judges and mentors. The final event also included a Venture Fair,
which was a science-fair type exhibit where more than 40 entrepreneurs put
their new ventures on display.  Mendoza
student-led teams Green Energy Zambia and Frameri Eyeglass Co. walked away with
$1,000 cash prizes for best presentation.

The McCloskey Competition has taken on a unique role in
the commercialization pipeline at Notre Dame, helping to move these high-tech
ventures to commercialization from their genesis in research. The Gigot Center
helps to provide the necessary resources—an entrepreneurial toolkit of
software, mentoring, networking and feedback— to help aspiring ND entrepreneurs
as they develop the business model, write the business plan and launch the

Gigot Center founder Gary Gigot has been a part of the
McCloskey Competition since the beginning. 
“Entrepreneurship came into focus at Notre Dame in 1997.  Our goal was to ‘create a sense of the
possible.’  Fast forward to the 2013
McCloskey Business Plan Competition and you now see visionary and pragmatic ND
entrepreneurs defining and broadening what is possible in a range of business
models and sectors.  Ambitious, complete
and convincing business plans are now the norm.”

In addition to the prize winners above, McCloskey
Business Plan Competition award winners included:

  • Best Venture Fair Presentation Awards ($1,000): presented
    to Frameri Eyeglass Co. and Green
    Energy Zambia
  • Innovation Park at Notre Dame Accelerator Award
    ($4,000 in space and consultation services): awarded to all 12 semifinalist
  • Office of Technology Transfer Award ($10,000 in
    patent reimbursement awarded to the ND Technology with Best Commercial
    Potential): Contect  
  • FISH Social Venture R&D Award ($7,000 in
    cash and in-kind services): Custom
  • Bernel Investment Management LLC Best Bootstrap
    Award ($2,000): Green Energy Zambia
  • Palo Alto Software Best Written Student
    Plans:  $1,000 for best undergraduate
    plan (ShopTalk Inc.) and $1,000 for
    best graduate plan (Frameri Eyeglass Co.)
  • First State Bank Banking Award ($5,000 in cash
    and in-kind services): The Indiana Whiskey
  • NestGSV Summer Residency Program (Summer
    residency at NestGSV in Silicon Valley; access to programs and resources,
    valued at $15,000): Contect, Frameri Eyeglass
    and Empower (Oak Financial)
  • Kilpatrick Townsend Kickstart Award ($5,000 in legal
    services for company formation; a “credit line” of up to $25,000 to
    be used for legal services until company reaches $500,000 in external
    financing): Contect, DM Oligonucleotides, Empower and Torigen Pharmaceuticals
  • Fish & Richardson Award for IP Services ($25,000
    in IP services given to the team most deserving of assistance relating to IP
    services): $15,000 awarded to Contect,
    $5,000 awarded to Frameri Eyeglass Co. and $5,000 awarded to Empower (Oak Financial).

The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 1998
for the purpose of fostering innovation and infusing aspiring entrepreneurs
with a sense of the possible. Through rigorous coursework, our business plan
competitions, extensive networking and mentorship, and hands-on learning
experiences, we provide students with the knowledge and skills vital to

For more information about the Gigot Center, call (574)
631-3042 or visit


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