For Srikanth Nimmagadda ’11, the most innovative business plan was the one that could solve a practical, painful problem he had witnessed firsthand: getting clean water to those who need it.
“Having grown up in India, even in the cities, people struggled to get good clean water for cooking and drinking,” Nimmagadda said.
The search for a solution led him to create PoWaSol, the first-place winner in the 2011 A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition, a contest run by the Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization and supported by the School’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center.
The competition encourages students to explore entrepreneurial ideas ambitious enough in scope and scale to be considered “outrageous.” Students explore these ideas while learning firsthand about the development and presentation of a business proposal. The contest also included an elevator pitch segment, which asked students to give their best short-form pitch inside the School’s Uris Hall elevators.
PoWaSol plans to offer the first scalable and affordable clean-water solution to the poorest communities in the developing world. Nimmagadda, who received a $7,000 first-place prize, plans to manufacture and sell the water-cleaning system, developed by a research center funded by the Indian government, to individual villages. He will launch operations first in India, then expand to other countries.
“This water system will be owned by the village it serves and powered by local animals like donkeys and camels. It will not depend on electricity,” Nimmagadda said.
The second place award was a tie, with cash prizes of $3,500 each going to two teams: Andres Small ’12 and Alex Nobel for Flipper, an ergonomic holster for smart phones, cell phones, and PDAs, manufactured by Flipper Flying Squid Inc., and Karl Philip Prinzhorn ’12 for Char Revolutions LLC, which will produce and deliver high-quality arctic char filets, a substitute for farmed salmon filets, to restaurants and upscale fish retailers in the Chicago area.
KJ Singh ’11, working with Bobby Singh ’09 and Bobby Gill, received third place and $1,000 for PriceIntel, a business plan that leverages game mechanics to send consumers on crowd-sourcing missions to collect pricing, merchandising, and inventory information for hundreds of thousands of consumer packaged goods.
PregEasy, created by Sumit Suman ’11 and Sagar Pilania ’12, was also honored as the Audience Favorite. PregEasy is a device that updates women about their current physical status, allowing them to easily test whether they are pregnant.