By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship
BioCellection won the $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize of the 2016 Wharton Business Plan Competition—as well as the Wharton Social Impact Prize, the Gloeckner Undergraduate Award, the Michelson People’s Choice Award, and the Committee Award for Most ‘Wow Factor,’ making them the first team in BPC history to win five awards. Founded by University of Pennsylvania undergraduates Miranda Wang, Alexander Simafranca, and Eric Friedman, and their teammates Jeanny Yao and Daniel Chapman, BioCellection is the first undergraduate team to win the Grand Prize. The prizes were awarded at the Wharton School’s annual Venture Finals on April 28, 2016, where student finalists received more than $125,000 in combined cash prizes and in-kind legal/accounting services.
BioCellection converts unrecyclable plastics into valuable materials using genetically engineered bacteria. The company had its start four years ago, when Vancouver, BC based high school friends Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao entered a biotechnology science competition with their proposed project on plastic biodegradation. They won a national prize, and then were invited to speak at the TED2013 conference. In college, both Miranda and Jeanny continued to pursue relevant scientific research, and this year they decided to found BioCellection to turn their research into a startup with the potential to change the world.
The Venture Finals, which is the BPC’s culminating event, attracted over 200 entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business leaders, faculty members, alumni and students. This year the competition had 150 venture concepts submitted, with over 350 individual participants from across six Schools at the University of Pennsylvania. While the Venture Finals judges deliberated the top three prizes, the “Great Eight” Finalist teams competed for the Michelson People’s Choice Award, which allowed the audience to vote for their favorite elevator pitch. This year, for the first time, the elevator pitches were streamed live on Facebook, and the digital audience was also allowed to vote.
The 2016 Wharton Business Plan Competition winners are:
- Perlman Grand Prize: $30,000 to BioCellection
- Second Prize: $15,000 to brEdcrumb
- Third Prize: $10,000 to WeTrain (WeTrain won the Committee Choice award at last year’s Venture Finals)
- Wharton Social Impact Prize: $10,000 to BioCellection
- Gloeckner Undergraduate Award: $10,000 for the highest ranking undergraduate team to BioCellection
- Michelson People’s Choice Award: $3,000 to BioCellection
- Committee Award for Best Semifinals Pitch: $1,000 to Qorum
- Committee Award for Best Use of Technology: $1,000 to Barn Owl
- Committee Award for Most ‘Wow Factor’: $1,000 to BioCellection
Over the years, the Wharton Business Plan Competition, which is open to any University of Pennsylvania student and managed by Wharton Entrepreneurship, has seen numerous student teams go on to become successful businesses. Previous participants in the Competition include ventures such as eyeglass phenom Warby Parker, dominant Brazilian baby e-commerce site Baby.com.br, and drug R&D company Integral Molecular.
Venture Finals judges were:
- David Cohen (PAR’14/PAR’16/PAR’17), CEO, Chief Investment Officer and Co-founder, Karlin Asset Management, Inc.
- Carol Curley (WG’81), Managing Director, Golden Seeds
- Marc Lore (Wharton alum), Founder and CEO, Jet.com
- Richard Perlman (W’68), Founder & Executive Chairman, ExamWorks Group, Inc.
- Stephen Tang (WG’92), President and CEO, University City Science Center
- Tracey Weber (WG’95), Strategic Advisor, Gilt and Hudson’s Bay Company