NEW: Winners Named in 2012 RI Business Plan Competition

Thursday, May 03, 2012


A maker of an innovative monitoring device for the marine industry, a developer of an online service that helps college students find off-campus housing, and the creator of a web-based application for customizing in-store music streams today were named winners in the 2012 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition.

The three winners and four finalists will share prizes valued at more than $200,000.

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Siren Marine, Inc., a Connecticut-based company that is relocating its headquarters to Providence, which has developed a waterproof device that monitors critical systems for any type of marine asset, was named the Technology winner. The company, led by Daniel Harper, of Mystic, Conn., was also the competition’s top cash winner and received $40,000 in addition to nearly $25,000 in services.

Harper said Siren Marine will use its winnings to hire staff, ramp up local manufacturing, expand operations, and market to the Rhode Island boating community before expanding elsewhere.

According to Harper, “No company in the marine industry has produced and marketed effectively a wireless device to monitor, track ,and control water-born assets. Historically, the boat ownership experience has been plagued with worry when these expensive watercraft are left untended, exposed to weather, system failure, and catastrophic loss.”

The winner in the Entrepreneur track was JumpOffCampus, led by Mark Abramowicz of Providence, a nascent company that will provide a free online service to colleges and universities to help their students find safe and affordable housing near campus.

Winning the Student track was, which is developing an application that will provide a customizable stream of music for in-store use by licensing music directly from artists/labels. The company was co-founded by Stephen Hebson and Parker Wells, seniors at Brown University.

The Entrepreneur and Student track winners each received $15,000 in cash and services valued at nearly $24,000.

The winners were announced at the annual RIBX business expo at the Rhode Island Convention Center, sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

Competition Co-chair Larry Davidson, principal with the Providence-based accounting firm of Kahn, Litwin, Renza & Co., congratulated the winners and finalists, noting, “All offered innovative, solid proposals for new businesses, which really makes Rhode Island the ultimate winner.”

David Mitchell, dean of the College of Business at Johnson & Wales University and competition co-chair, said, “This year we were supported by a record 51 sponsors, who make the competition possible. We thank them greatly and look forward to continue working with them to expand on the competition’s success.”

Finalists in both tracks received $5,000 in cash and services valued at between $9,000 and $11,500. Prizes were donated by sponsors, which included private companies, professional services firms, investors and banks, foundations, nonprofits, colleges and universities, and public agencies. To be eligible to win, applicants had to agree to establish or maintain operations in Rhode Island.

Finalists in the Entrepreneur track were:

· Buy with Heart, an online service that will allow consumers to easily find social enterprise products and services, led by Kelly Ramirez, of Providence.

· Splitwise, an Internet-based system that advises people about fairness and shared bills and automatically pays people back to balance their share. Jonathan Bittner, of Providence, is leading the team.

Finalists in the Student track were:

JC Wind, a manufacturing company that will create carbon-fiber based wind turbine blades with an attractive strength/weight profile at less cost. The includes James McGinn and Carli Wiesenfeld, both seniors at Brown University.

Solar4Cents, a manufacturing company that will produce low-cost, thin-film copper, zinc, tin, and sulfur solar cells for solar panel manufacturers, developed by Brown University graduate students Sean Pennino, Xiaotong Shan, Meng Zhang, and Bhavuk Nagpal.

The 2012 competition attracted 75 business plans that spanned the biotech, Internet, consumer, distribution, and manufacturing industries.

This year marked the ninth time the competition has been held since it first awarded prizes in 2001. To date, it has awarded more than $1.2 million in prizes.


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