Three Brown Teams Sweep Awards at RI Business Plan Competition

A team led by a woman who came to Rhode Island to study entrepreneurship at Brown University and continued to work on her business idea after finishing as a semi-finalist in the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition two years ago, was named the top winner in this year's competition, sharing $200,000 in prizes with six other winners and finalists. In total, five of the seven finalists were from Brown University School of Engineering classes or programs, including all three winners.

HMSolution, which provides water treatment equipment to remove arsenic and other toxic chemicals at significantly lower cost than competitors, was named the Entrepreneur Track winner in the 2015 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.

The company received $66,200 in prizes – $15,000 in cash and $26,200 in professional and consulting services as the Entrepreneur Track winner, plus a $25,000 bonus cash award.

Margaret Lengerich ScMIM'13, CEO of HMSolution, who came from Chile to earn a master's degree from the Brown University School of Engineering's Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME), co-founded the company with her sister, Constanza, both of whom now live in Providence. The project had its start two years ago in PRIME, with mentorship from Emeritus Professor of Engineering Joseph Calo. Over the past two years, the significant further efforts of the Lengerich sisters have led to a new vision for the company, one that is now meeting with great success.

"HMSolution is a for-profit company generating a social impact," Lengerich said. "Our mission is to protect cities, communities, and homeowners from the health effects of toxic contaminants, such as arsenic and other chemicals, by providing a cost-effective solution and easy-to-operate system."

Two other teams with connections to Brown's School of Engineering won the Student Track and the Technology Awards, each of which received $41,200 in prizes comprised of cash and professional and consulting services.

The winner of the Student Track was Bounty, led by Noah Fradin '15 of Brown University, which is creating automated visual content-recognition software that links to an online advertising marketplace, connecting brands with visual content creators. It is the seventh consecutive year a Brown University team has won the student track of the competition.

The team developed its plan in Danny Warshay's highly regarded course, Engineering 1010: The Entrepreneurial Process: Innovation in Practice. Other team members are Race Archibold '15 and Andrew Triedman '15.

NGS Imaging, which is developing a scintillator that will increase image resolution and overall detector efficiency of X-ray equipment used to diagnose and screen for disease indicators, was the Technology Award winner. This student team also originated in PRIME. Team members include PRIME master's students Linghan Xing, Shashank Boddupalli, Tod Camara, Matt Donahue, Iain MacKenzie, and Stephanie Prochaska, and a key technology mentor was Emeritus Professor of Engineering Ted Morse.

"Good ideas for new companies are flourishing in Rhode Island, and we look forward to watching and working with many of this year's competitors to help them grow," said Competition Co-chair Peggy Farrell, partner in the law of firm of Hinckley Allen.

The two other finalists in the Student Track, both from Brown University, were EquiTrue and UnSync. EquiTrue is an advanced stability assessment system that can detect and quantify specific balance and proprioceptive impairment caused by concussions. The principal applicant is Dan Giovacchini '15. Other team members include Trent Green '18 and Patrick O'Neill '15. EquiTrue is a senior capstone team from the Business, Entrepreneurship, and Organizations (BEO) - Entrepreneurship and Technology Management track. The BEO program is sponsored by the School of Engineering and the Departments of Economics and Sociology.

UnSync is using unsynchronized structured lighting and multi-frequency phase shifting techniques to power 3-D scanners at significantly lower cost than is currently available. The principal applicant is Brown University PRIME master's student Leo Liu. Other team members include PRIME master's students Meixing Dong, Chris Heelan, and Ziqiang Yin, with technical mentorship by Associate Professor of Engineering Gabriel Taubin.

Finalists in both tracks received $5,000 in cash and services valued at $7,850.

A total of 82 applications were received this year – 48 in the Entrepreneur Track and 34 in the Student Track. The Technology Award is given to an applicant in one of the two tracks.

A team from Brown University has won the competition for the past six years. Previous winners have included Dual Server Cooling (2014), Azavy (2013), (2012), PriWater, now Premama, (2011), Speramus (2010), and Runa (2009).

Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, which aims to create and foster growth companies in Rhode Island that will increase local employment, has been recognized as one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded more than $1.8 million in prizes to competitors developing companies across many industries.