$10,000 Business Plan Challenge

Aging Today, July/August 2004 | Go to article overview

$10,000 Business Plan Challenge


MicroMRI, a company started by a student at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, has won the $10,000 Boomer Business Plan Challenge, a competition aimed at developing products and services for older adults and aging boomers.

Among the competition finalists were a Web-based rating system for wheelchair users and others with disabilities; a portable device that monitors a user's vital signs during exercise; and a distribution company for stylish, high-end clothing for mature women.

The winner was announced at the recent 2004 Joint Conference of the American Society on Aging (ASA) and the National Council on the Aging in San Francisco, during the special program "What's Next? Transforming Boomers' Needs and Interests to Success in the Marketplace." The competition was organized by ASA and its Business Forum on Aging, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business, and Mary Furlong and Associates.

THE FIRST COMPETITION

The international competition attracted 85 contestants who are developing new products or services for the underserved market of older consumers. Contestants ranged from full-time students to entrepreneurs with seed or early-stage companies to independent business professionals. A team of judges-venture capitalists, corporate CEOs, academics and retirement organization executives-winnowed the list of plans down to 20, then selected six finalists before tapping MicroMRI for the top prize. Descriptions of all 20 plans and contact information are available online at www.maryfur long.com/whatsnext/. For more information on the conference and business plan competition, phone (415) 751-3802.

"The Boomer Business Plan Challenge is the first and only business plan competition focused on and integrated with a market segment, in this case consumers ages 50 and over," said Barry Z. Posner, dean of Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business. "This focus meets the Leavey School of Business mission of creating meaning-not just money (the focus of many business plan competitions)-and makes sense for a school concerned with educating leaders with competence, conscience and compassion."

ASA president and CEO Gloria Cavanaugh noted, "The innovators and entrepreneurs who participated in this business plan challenge represent the leading edge of a national and international response to the aging of the boomer generation." She added, "Now is the time for the rest of the business community to take heed and follow in their footsteps."

Mary Furlong, whose consulting firm for the 5O-plus market organized the competition, commented, "There is an unmistakable new energy and passion around this market. The potential social impact is unlike anything I've seen since the introduction of the personal computer 20 years ago." Now an executive professor of entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University, Calif., Furlong was the founder of SeniorNet and ThirdAge.com.

VIRTUAL BONE BIOPSY

MicroMRI, the Philadelphia-based company with the winning business plan, offers a Virtual Bone Biopsy (VBB) addon system for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. It provides a noninvasive means for testing a patient's bone microstructure, an indicator of bone strength and a warning sign of osteoporosis. According to Felix Wehrli, company founder and principal inventor, "VBB is the only noninvasive technology to date that can measure trabecular bone microstructure in vivo, offering physicians and researchers an effective method for monitoring drug treatment."

Wehrli, a senior investigator at the Department of Radiology of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, explained that by measuring bone-impact strength with VBB, "physicians will be better able to quantify fracture risk and to recommend appropriate treatments." Chief executive officer Onne Ganel added that pharmaceutical companies might benefit from using VBB technology as a drugdevelopment tool. …

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