U of U Students Score at Global Business Plan Competition

Short Solutions, a University of Utah startup company consisting of four current and former engineering students, won the Palo Alto Software Challenge Award at the 2010 Global Moot Corp Competition – the “Super Bowl of business plan competitions” – at The University of Texas in Austin. Only 40 teams from 12 countries qualified to participate. Short Solution’s win earned the team $1,500, which brings their total earnings from grants and competitions to $86,500.

The Moot Corp Competition was so important to the team that Jordan Nicholls, one of the students behind Short Solutions, missed his recent graduation ceremony for earning a master’s degree in electrical engineering so he could attend the event.

“Not being business students, we had to play a little bit of catch-up, but our engineering background gave us the foundation that we needed,” said Nicholls who is serving as the interim CEO of the company.

Short Solutions began as an undergraduate project for Nicholls, Chase Thompson, Justin Ferguson and Chad Mann. They sought to find a solution to intermittent faults in automobiles, and they successfully identified a method that they are currently trying to bring to the marketplace. Intermittent faults are those that are inconsistent and difficult to detect. Short Solutions method for identifying these faults uses spread spectrum time domain reflectometry (SSTDR), which works by continuously sending a signal down a test wire and comparing the readings to a baseline measurement. Dr. Cynthia Furse, associate vice president for research at the University of Utah and a pioneer of SSTDR, inspired the idea for their initial research project.

The student company earned the right to participate in Moot Corp by winning first place at the 2010 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, where they earned $40,000 to help develop their technology. At Moot Corp, they competed in three rounds, where they presented their business plans to venture capitalists and seasoned entrepreneurs. While the team did not make it to the finals, Short Solutions won the Palo Alto Software Challenge, which was one of five challenges at the competition. Short Solutions presence at the Global Moot Corp Competition is a credit to the strength of their invention and business plan. It is also a testament to the assistance they have received from The Lassonde New Venture Development Center at the University of Utah. The Center, which is part of the David Eccles School of Business, helps students and faculty commercialize their inventions. Inventors are paired with graduate students from across the campus, including from the David Eccles School of Business and the College of Engineering.

“The Short Solutions team did an incredible job ramping up a very steep learning curve to get their business plan together for the Moot Corp Competition,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, director of The Pierre Lassonde Entrepreneur Center, who also served as one of the team’s advisors.

Moot Corp was first established in 1984, and this year marked the 27th year of this annual event. It is widely known as a premier business plan competition for students and Business Week dubbed it the “Super Bowl of world business plan competitions.” Learn more about the event at www.mootcorp.org.

Short Solutions took home some valuable lessons and their success comes after a string of other related accomplishments. In addition to winning the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge earlier this year, they competed in the Opportunity Quest business plan competition and secured a $45,000 Technology Commercialization Grant from the Utah Science and Technology Research initiative (USTAR). That funding will enable the team to develop and test a prototype device for detecting intermittent faults. But, as that nears completion, the students will be seeking additional funding for product development and marketing. Learn more about Short Solutions at www.shortsolutionsengineering.com.

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