Spotlight Story

Green Power Sources, Baby Products and Cancer Treatment Win at Big Bang! Business Plan Competition

Image of Green Power Sources, Baby Products and Cancer Treatment Win at Big Bang! Business Plan Competition

The biggest bang in this year’s UC Davis Big Bang! Business Plan Competition came from the S2E Energy founder with a thin, transparent material designed to conduct the sun’s power more cheaply and efficiently than existing solar technology. As first-prize winner, Jon Servaites took home $10,000 at the May 25 finals of the 12th annual competition, which is organized and run by UC Davis MBA students.

Second prize of $4,500 went to the creators of Happy Baby vending machines, for on-the-go access to diapers, organic snacks and other baby products.

The People’s Choice Award and $2,000 went to Roadwise Technologies, which has developed a thin film that can be installed under asphalt to capture energy created by the sun’s heat and the pressure of passing vehicles.

Seeing a Brighter Future in Solar

S2E Energy, formerly known as Simple Cleantech, sells a platform solar cell component that, according to Servaites, outperforms existing components by a factor of four, which leads to efficiency gains of 25 percent to 30 percent or higher compared to existing technology.

“Just as a faster computer chip can enable a faster computer, a more conductive transparent conductor will enable a higher efficiency solar cell, or higher power solar cell—think of it as ‘Intel Inside’ for solar,” said Servaites, S2E Energy’s chief executive officer.

His goal is to find five beta customers—large solar cell manufacturers—that are willing to test the technology as a drop in replacement product in the existing manufacturing process. Servaites is a 2010 graduate of UC Davis’ Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy, run by the Graduate School of Management’s Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He earned a doctorate in materials science and engineering at Northwestern University, where the initial technology was developed for the S2E Energy solar cell.

Convenience for New Parents on the Go

Erica Harris said the idea for Happy Baby Vending came from an incident a few years back when she ran into a woman in need of a diaper for her baby. The woman ended up leaving a cheerleading competition, in which another child was participating. “I thought: There should be a better way for mothers to do this—there should be vending machines,” Harris said.

“I don’t have children, so I asked my mother, my aunts, my friends, and they all agreed it was a good idea,” said Harris, a 2008 UC Davis graduate with a bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition.

In two years, with the help of her mother as primary investor, Harris has installed four Happy Baby Vending machines at shopping malls in the Los Angeles area, with plans to expand to Ventura County in July and to have 180 vending machines statewide in five years.

Harnessing Highway Energy

In winning the People’s Choice Award, third-year UC Davis law student Ryan Lore, team leader for Roadwise Technologies, won over the audience with his description of how to collect energy from high-traffic highways. “The pressure of the passing cars, combined with the hot roadway, creates a lot of energy that we can use,” he said.

Lore explained that, with the technology that his team of chemists, engineers and law students helped develop, energy can be harnessed and sold to utilities or companies. The Dynafilm technology can be used on freeways and parking lots, he said, on existing asphalt. The team’s next step is to expand an existing small beta test to a larger scale 12-foot-by-12-foot section of asphalt.

CuroGen Nanotechnology Aims to Improve Chemotherapy

With two UC Davis Bay Area MBA students who work in the biotech field presenting the plan for Integrated Cancer Therapeutics (ICT), the start-up venture took home a $15,000 award in the Big Bang! Medical Technology Track for their work on CuroGen, a unique nanotechnology-carrier drug delivery system that targets the chemotherapy drug specifically at urinary bladder cancer tumors. The UC Davis-based innovation is in the preclinical trial stage.

Funding for the Med Tech Track prize came from a Partnerships for Innovation grant from the National Science Foundation—a grant that established the UC Davis Medical Technology Commercialization Clinic. Graduate School of Management graduate Gabriela Lee ’04, the chief knowledge transfer officer at the UC Davis Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology presented the award aimed at encouraging students to pursue innovative breakthroughs in medicine.

Bay Area MBA student Joanie Cheung, team leader for ICT, said the goal with CuroGen is to improve the efficacy and lower the side effects of bladder cancer chemotherapy. Cheung has partnered with fellow Bay Area MBA student Candice Pereira, a service sales manager at Bio-Rad Laboratories, and UC Davis School of Law student Yi Yao, who bring intellectual property experience to the team.

“As this therapy will become the most effective bladder cancer treatment, it will control the growth of cancer cells effectively and reduce pain,” said Cheung, who is a systems engineer at Roche Molecular Diagnostics.

Graduate School of Management alumnus Brian Woodall ’06, a Big Bang! judge, said the quality of entries was especially high this year.

“The ideas we saw today were more developed than a lot of business plan I’ve seen—there were a lot of new and better ideas here today,” said Woodall, CEO of Lamplighter Financial.

Professor Andrew Hargadon, faculty director of the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship—a sponsor and adviser for the competition—encouraged the student participants to keep pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. “The prospect for starting a company has never been better,” he said. “Starting a business is more accessible and acceptable than it ever has been.”

Each year, the Big Bang! competition brings together interdisciplinary teams of students, university researchers and faculty, with mentors from the region’s business community. Some of Northern California’s largest employers, venture capitalists and law firms provide the prize money, coaching and volunteer judges. The Big Bang! has produced many teams that have become successful start-ups since its founding in 2000.

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