Contest draws wave of entrepreneurs

Nine entrepreneurs are vying to take home some of the $250,000 worth of top prizes in this year’s Rhode Island Business Plan Competition with proposals that include new ways to provide surgeons with 3-D images, to tote intravenous (IV) devices, to pay a restaurant tab and to tour historic downtown Providence. More

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INNOVATION

Contest draws wave of entrepreneurs

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
GRATUITY INCLUDED: Ryan Schumacher, left, and Nick Reuter, are developing TotalTab, a mobile app for smartphones that would allow restaurant patrons to open a tab, monitor and pay it.
Posted 4/25/11

Nine entrepreneurs are vying to take home some of the $250,000 worth of top prizes in this year’s Rhode Island Business Plan Competition with proposals that include new ways to provide surgeons with 3-D images, to tote intravenous (IV) devices, to pay a restaurant tab and to tour historic downtown Providence.

All are candidates to become part of the state’s developing knowledge economy.

This year’s competition saw 103 applications in two categories, considerably more than any other year since the contest started in 2000, according to Larry Davidson, principal with the Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co. accounting firm in Providence, a competition sponsor.

One reason for the increased number of applicants, said Davidson, is that, “This year the competition [organizers] worked really hard at reaching out to our partners, to make people more aware of our competition.”

But another reason, Davidson suggested, is what he sees as early growth of the knowledge economy. Davidson believes the business-startup community, where the most innovation usually happens, is larger now than just a year ago.

Formation of the knowledge economy is an initiative to make Rhode Island and Providence, in particular, the high-tech hub of such sectors as health care and life sciences, technology, research and development, alternate and renewable energy. The R.I. Economic Development Corporation and Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce are leading this effort.

The competition entrants are prime examples of the kinds of industries that could add to the knowledge economy, said Davidson, co-chair of the 2011 contest with David Mitchell, dean of the College of Business at Johnson & Wales University in Providence.

“That is part of our mission, to expand the base of knowledge companies,” he said, adding that the business-plan competition is intended to be a “key piece” of this initiative.

In 2009, 57 applicants took part in the competition and, in 2010, there were 61. The 103 participants this year include 72 entrepreneurs and 31 students, representing 10 states and one foreign nation, Pakistan, according to information provided by Davidson. Some 16 semi-finalists were announced this month, nine entrepreneurs and seven students.

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