Undergraduate wins $25,000 prize at Tuck competition
By James Peng, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, April 16, 2012
At the Green Venture Entrepreneurship Contest at the Tuck School of Business on Saturday, first-place finisher Alison Stace-Naughton ’11, who developed what was initially a prototype for an introductory engineering course into a practical tool to prevent tissue damage in endoscopic surgery, received a prize of $25,000.
The prize awarded to the company came from a pool of $50,000, which was split between the first, second and third place winners, as well as six honorable mentions, according to Stace-Naughton.
Stace-Naughton’s product is a vacuum-assisted tissue stabilization tool to help prevent stomach movement during endoscopic surgery. The device uses vacuum-driven suction to grab and stabilize organs while doctors perform surgery, according to Stace-Naughton.
Spiral-E is specifically designed for natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons operate through orifices such as the mouth.
“We’re going to have less failures and better outcomes in the fastest growing area of minimally invasive surgery,” she said.
Stace-Naughton originally designed an initial prototype of the device with three other students for her Introduction to Engineering course, after which she consulted professors at Dartmouth Medical School for advice on how to improve the device’s design.
The product has already been tested in vitro on pig stomachs at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, though the device must also undergo in vivo testing inside live organisms to gain regulatory approval.
Stace-Naughton plans to raise around $400,000 to create a medical-grade prototype of the product, gain regulatory clearance and complete intellectual property filing.
“We are pursuing a highly capital efficient development strategy and looking for an early exit,” she said. “I know I’m not going to be competitive around the big players on my own.”
PayOrPass, a company founded by Nathan Sharp Tu’12, won the second place award of $10,000 for its model for a program that allows consumers to shop for products online at lower prices.
The service will allow customers to submit an offer on a product that they wish to acquire for a discount. Their bid is then sent to PayOrPass merchant subscribers, who have the opportunity to accept the discounted price if they wish to liquidate that item.
Customers then receive an email indicating that their bid has been accepted, and the customers have 24 hours to either pay for the product or cancel their original offer.
“We think that if things go as planned, this can be very disruptive to e-commerce,” Sharp said.
The company will receive a 15 percent commission for every purchase that goes through the PayOrPass system, Sharp said.
Sharp and the other members of the PayOrPass team initially plan to raise at least $700,000 by the end of the year in seed funding for advertising, sales and development to achieve a customer base of around 15,000 users.
Grocery Glee, founded by Andres Bilbao Tu’13 and Pablo Navarro ’13, won the third place prize of $5,000 for its development of Android, iPhone and iPad applications to create a more streamlined online grocery shopping experience.
“We will take a two-hour chore and turn it into a five-minute pleasurable experience,” Bilbao said.
The application works by allowing users to view virtual aisles of groceries and select the items by using a finger to drag them into a shopping cart. Retailers — who receive the benefit of increased publicity and easier promotions — pay a commission for each item sold through the Grocery Glee application.
Grocery Glee currently has two merchant subscribers in Colombia, including the “equivalent of CVS in Latin America,” Navarro said. The application is currently only targeted for Latin American companies, but Bilbao and Navarro plan to expand the company if it is successful.
Judges in the competition included Upstart founder Dave Girouard ’84 Tu’96, Greylock Partners partner and Dartmouth trustee Bill Helman ’80, Vertica Systems CEO Andy Palmer Tu’94 and Borealis Ventures managing director Matt Rightmire Tu’96.
The three finalists were selected out of nine semifinalists on Friday in a preliminary round in front of a separate panel of judges. Other semifinalists included GlucoSmart, Memeja, Puddleworks, Pureflora, Rock Lobby and Soteer, which each received an honorable mention in the competition.
Spiral-E placed second at the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Society’s entrepreneurship competition last Friday, while Memeja, a rage comics website created by Delos Chang ’14, won the first place prize.
The entrepreneurship contest was held at the conclusion of the Greener Ventures Conference, a day-long event that aimed to promote the discussion of topics and issues involved with entrepreneurial initiatives.
The conference began with keynote speeches from Dartmouth trustee Trevor Rees-Jones ’73, founder and president of Chief Oil and Gas, and Christina Stoltz ’06, a social entrepreneur.
Rees-Jones spoke about the challenges of working in the natural gas industry and recounted multiple experiences of failure before finally becoming successful.
Stoltz talked about her motivation and experience starting the Philadelphia-based REQ1 and Ploome — a non-profit/for-profit hybrid enterprise that combines “diversity, wellness and social responsibility,” Stoltz said.
REQ1, a non-profit organization, provides free physical fitness classes to victims of gender-based violence while Ploome, a for-profit company, offers group and private pilates, cardio and yoga classes.
Conference attendees said they enjoyed the level of innovation that was showcased at each event.
“I thought it was a great showing of Dartmouth energy and a nice cross section of people of different ages and concentrations,” Daniel Rowe Tu’09 said. “It was inspiring to see what everyone was doing.”
Yolanda Masbeth DMS’10 said she was especially impressed by the level of proposals presented during the entrepreneurial competition.
“It was inspiring to see the level of innovation that was occurring and the great level of interest that people had in developing these concepts,” Masbeth said.
The Greener Ventures conference — which was sponsored by the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network and the Entrepreneurship Initiative — also featured 12 panel discussions and a showcase of several start-up companies.