May 22, 2008

By Roey Gilberg

CityMediaCityMedia took home first prize at the 27th annual Knapp Venture Competition, which took place at UCLA Anderson on Wednesday evening, May 21st. The student-run event, hosted by the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, featured five finalist entries.  Each team presented their ventures in front of a panel of venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs which included Betsy and Cleon "Bud" Knapp, the namesakes of the competition.  In their presentations, teams attempted to persuade the judges on the merits of the business opportunity, feasibility of the model, and likelihood of profitability.

Since team formation took place during winter quarter, the competition saw 47 teams eventually reduced to the five finalists through a series of stages.  Along the way, entrants were able to experience a multitude of preparatory events, such as alumni mixers and seminars.

In the end, CityMedia, an India-based chain of premium media and entertainment zones, was awarded the $15,000 top prize.  Presented by Amita Bhatia ('08), Prema Sampath ('08), and Alfred Baksi ('08), they convinced the judges that India's booming economy and burgeoning class of young, affluent professionals is ripe for the development of more upscale establishments.

"They had a well-organized plan, and they presented it well," said Bud Knapp.  "They were very believable, and ultimately we had a lot of faith in them that they know India."

Crazy Cart, which also won the $1,000 Epson People's Choice Award as voted on by the attendees, finished in second place, followed by Synlixir Therapeutics, Inc. in third, Perseus Medical in fourth, with Float rounding out the top five.

Judges and organizers alike expressed excitement over the integration of other disciplines and fields into some of the business plans.  Perseus Medical, which introduced new technology that enhances the portability and availability of endoscopic procedures, featured Dr. Warren Grundfest, Associate Professor and Chief of Anesthesiology at UCLA's Geffen School of Medicine, as one of their presenters.  Also fitting the bill was Synlixir Therapeutics, Inc., a biotech initiative which generates multi-drug "cocktails" from existing drugs.

"The medical products were excellent," noted Knapp.

Float was the only venture to be set forth by a solitary presenter, Amit Runchal ('09).  His venture offered an online personal finance tool, designed to make money management more approachable for the average person.

Crazy Cart, obviously a favorite among the spectators, drew praise for its creativity.  The team, led by Ali Kermani ('09), presented a new type of ride-on toy featuring several unique capabilities, such as sideways drifting and spinning in place.  "Their venture was probably the most fun, the most innovative," said Knapp.

Other prizes: 2nd place = $7,500, third = $5,000, fourth = $2,500, fifth = $1,000

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