Winners Named in 2014 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition

PROVIDENCE, RI –  A Providence-based company that is making an intelligent monitoring system that uses 3-D sensing technology to identify and alert caregivers to changes in behavior was named the top winner in the 2014 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition today, sharing more than $200,000 in prizes with six other winners and finalists.

Nordic Technology Group, co-founded by Erik Wernevi of Providence, was named the Technology winner and received $45,000 in cash and $23,000 in professional and consulting services.

“With our 3D motion sensors and unique software, we are able to detect falls and similar incidents without a person wearing any device,” explained Wernevi, who serves as chief executive officer. “Even if someone is unconscious or can’t press the alarm, they will get timely help. We believe that the standard of care in the future will require that individuals get timely help even if they are incapacitated,” 

Nordic is already collaborating with two leading senior housing communities, as well as health experts, in Rhode Island to refine and advance its technology.

Also on the team are co-founder Josh Napoli, chief technology officer; Sheldon Apsell, vice president of product development; and Li Sun, software developer.

Entrepreneur and Student track winners also were announced, each of which received $20,000 in cash and services valued at $19,250.

Named Entrepreneur track winner was CompNet Insurance Solutions, led by David Bedard of Providence, which is developing an online quote system that allows businesses of all sizes, particularly smaller companies, to get immediate quotes on workers’ compensation insurance, thereby eliminating the need for an insurance broker. Also on his team are Matthew Flanagan and Marc Stein.

Named Student track winner was Dual Server Cooling, a team from Brown University that is using licensed technology to develop a new approach to cooling data centers that is 40 times more efficient, with lower implementation cost, than current data center cooling technologies. The group, led by Ze Chen, includes Yiran Gao and Kangbei Jiang, all of whom are graduate students studying innovation management and entrepreneurship

Competition Co-chair Peggy Farrell, partner in the law of firm of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, said, “We had an especially strong group of contenders this year, which made the judging more difficult, but it’s a problem we’re happy to have. It is exciting that so many entrepreneurs with good ideas are looking to establish their businesses in Rhode Island.”

Added Co-chair Larry Davidson, principal with the Providence-based accounting firm of Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., “We particularly want to thank our sponsors for their generosity, which makes it possible for us to award prizes to help build the next generation of locally-based companies.”

In addition to the winners, finalists in the Entrepreneur track were:

  • KloudBook, led by Mike Mullen of Seekonk, Mass., is a social network for sharing personal contact information that is aiming to become the universal way to look-up any colleague’s mobile number or email address. Mullen, a senior finance major at University of Massachusetts/Amherst and originally from Providence, along with Brandon Kane, a senior computer science major at UMass/Amherst, Najela Gill, a senior computer science major at Amherst College, and his father, David, will build the company in Rhode Island.
  • StormTree, which has created a “tree filter system” for managing storm water run-off that integrates trees with storm water collection as a sustainable alternative to traditional underground pipe systems. The company is led by Paul Iorio of Pawtucket, a design and engineering professional specializing in the integration of plant systems with storm water management in commercial and residential applications.

Finalists in the Student track were:

  • MedSynergies, another team of Brown University graduate students studying innovation management and entrepreneurship, led by Aditya Singh, is developing an affordable, pre-screening test that uses biomarkers to detect the onset of lung cancer at its early and treatable stages. Also on the team is Pratik Thakkar.
  • Pronto is developing a smartphone application for ordering and paying orders at full-service restaurants. Leading the team is Jesse Hartheimer, a psychology major at Brown. Working with him are Peter Hix, a Brown economics major; Raghava Kamalesh, a Brown biochemistry major; Juliette Weiss, a graphic design major at Rhode Island School of Design; and Michael Zamost, a Brown religious studies major.

Finalists in both tracks received $7,000 in cash and services valued at $7,250 

The 2014 competition attracted 75 business plans that spanned biotech, consumer, health care, information technology, manufacturing, retail, and software markets.

This year marked the eleventh time the competition has been held since first awarding prizes in 2001. To date, it has awarded more than $1.6 million in prizes.

Nine Business and Community Leaders Served as Judges

Serving as judges in the 2014 competition were the following business and community leaders:

  • Larry Davidson, principal, Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co.
  • Roger Davois, vice president, research and advanced technologies, Davol Inc., a subsidiary of C. R. Bard, Inc.
  • Scott DePasquale, chairman and CEO, Utilidata
  • Margaret Farrell, partner, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder
  • Mark Higgins, dean, College of Business Administration, University of Rhode Island
  • Jeff Jefferson, partner, Edwards Wildman & Palmer
  • Ray Mathieu, board director, CFO, and angel investor
  • Shawn Scott, director of sales and marketing, Collette
  • Christine Smith, director of Innovation Programs, RI Commerce Corporation

Sponsors of the 2014 Competition

Supporting this year’s competition are 59 sponsors, the most ever since the competition began in 2000, including 14 banks and investors; nine colleges and universities; foundations; construction, insurance, health-related, software, other businesses, professional firms, and service organizations; and two former participants.

Lead sponsors of the 2014 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition are Davol Inc, Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, and the University of Rhode Island, along with Cumulus Media-Providence (AM 790), Edwards Wildman, Embolden, Hinckley Allen, and Kahn, Litwin, Renza.

Also supporting the competition are Brown University, Bryant University, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, and Rhode Island School of Design, as well as AAA Southern New England, Bank of America, Collette, Envision Technology Advisors, FM Global, Johnson & Wales University, Providence Business News, Providence College, Rhode Island College, Roger Williams University, Slater Technology Fund, Utilidata, and Verizon New England.

Additional sponsors include Bank Rhode Island, Business Development Company, Care New England Health System, Center for Women and Enterprise, Centreville Bank, Cherrystone Angel Group, Deepwater Wind, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Dimeo Construction Company, Gencorp Insurance Group, Gilbane Inc., GTECH Corporation, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, Navigant Credit Union, Nortek, Inc., RBS Citizens, Rhode Island Foundation, Santander Bank, Teknor Apex, The Moore Company, Washington Trust, and Ximedica.

Also, Bank Newport, Betaspring, Biomedical Structures, Community College of Rhode Island, CVS/Caremark, Freedom National Bank, Haverhill Incorporated, Hayes & Sherry Real Estate Services, InsureMyTrip.com, ShapeUp, Starkweather & Shepley, and Tech Collective. 

About the Competition

Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has been recognized as one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded more than $1.6 million in prizes to competitors developing companies across many industries.

In addition to awarding prizes, the competition hosts educational events in the months leading up to the application deadline. They include business development, financial planning, and presentation skills workshops. In addition, the competition hosts the annual Rhode Island Elevator Pitch Contest. Complete competition information, including rules, application procedures, guidelines, and business plan resources, is available at www.ri-bizplan.com.

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