Sponsored by Eric Aroesty, C’92
History of the Startup Challenge
Since 1998, University of Pennsylvania students have participated in a year-long challenge to found a business, originally known as the Wharton Business Plan Competition (WBPC). Established in the 2016-2017 academic year, the current Startup Challenge engages student founders and team members, connecting them with Wharton and Penn resources through Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship programming and teaching the fundamentals of entrepreneurship along the way. Participating judges, who are predominantly alumni and are all professionals in their fields, offer feedback and guidance. The Startup Challenge culminates in the Startup Showcase, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship’s day-long flagship event, bringing together successful entrepreneurial alumni with Penn student entrepreneurs, to showcase the best ventures from across Penn’s campus.
Many of the award winning companies throughout the history of the competition are still in business today or have been sold for a tidy profit.
Each year, approximately:
Counting to Save Lives
2018 Perlman Grand Prize winner Sanguis is developing a cost-effective at-home blood cell counting device for patients to monitor their health during chemotherapy treatment.
2018 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Sanguis
Competing team: Daniel Zhang, GR’23, M’23, Prateek Agarwal, M’20, WG’20 and Divyansh Agarwal, GR’23, M’23
Second Prize: MD Ally
Competing team: Shanel Fields, WG’19 and Randy Findley
Third Prize: Avisi Technologies
Competing team: Rui Jing Jiang, W’18, Adarsh Battu, W’18 and Brandon Kao, ENG’18
Seamless Internal Mobility
2017 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Twine
Twine is transforming HR by making internal mobility seamless.
Second Prize: RightAir
Competing team: Thomas Uhler, C’19, W’19, Jacob Brenner, Marek Swoboda, Perry Dubin, and Michal Swoboda
Third Prize: CitySense
Competing team: Mitch Gainer, WG’18, Marc Giesener, WG’18 and Christophe Williams, WG’18
2017: Inaugural year of the Startup Challenge
2016 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: BioCellection
BioCellection converts unrecyclable plastics into valuable materials using genetically engineered bacteria.
Second Prize: brEDcrumb
Competing team: Scott Elfenbein WG’17, Michelle Xie WG’17, Sam DeLuccia GEN’17, Vijay Kalvakuntla WG’17, Chelsea Atkins C’16, Lily Kim WG’17, and Sarah Bantz WG’16
Third Prize: WeTrain
Competing team: Jonathan Sockol W’09/WG’16, Zach Hertzel, Mitch Brudy, Juliano DiSimone, Matt Wignall, Bobby Ren, and Rick O’Brien
5 Awards, and the First Undergrad Team to Win the Perlman Grand Prize
2015 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Bungalow Insurance
Bungalow Insurance uses data and design to create an insurance experience that finally meets the needs, habits, and expectations of Millennial consumers.
Second Prize: Fever Smart
Competing team: Aaron Goldstein W’16, Collin Hill W’16, William Duckworth ENG’16, and Becca Goldstein C’14
Third Prize: Soceana
Competing team: Tess Michaels C’15/W’15 and Natasha Doherty W’18
Renters' Insurance for Millenials
The company is initially focused on the renters’ insurance vertical, with plans to expand its portfolio to other property & casualty insurance products in the near future.
2014 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Slidejoy
Slidejoy is an Android app that rewards users to have trending news and promotions appear on their lock screens. It was acquired in 2017 by Buzzvil, another startup that allows Android users to earn rewards in exchange for allowing ads on their lock screens.
Second Prize: Phase Optics
Competing team: Frank Brodie MD’14/WG’14, Paul Blanton WG’14, and Grant Mitchell MD’14/WG’14
Third Prize: VeryApt
Competing team: Ashrit Kamireddi WG’14, Scott Bierbryer WG’14, Andrew Mackowski, and Ross Bierbryer
2013 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: ZenKars
An online retailer of used cars.
Second Prize: Maculens
Competing team: Frank Brodie M’14/WG’14 and Rob Bressler WG’14
Third Prize: Top Trender
Competing team: Ben Cann WG’13
2012 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: RightCare Solutions
An evidence-based decision tool to identify, during the admissions process, what patients are at high-risk for readmission. In December 2015 RightCare was bought by Cardinal Health subsidiary naviHealth, for an undisclosed (but generous) amount.
Second Prize: 1DocWay
Competing team: Samir Malik C’08/W’08/WG’14, Nuvid Bhuiyan C’14/W’14, Mubeen Malik C’08, and Danish Munir ENG’09/W’09. Acquired in 2015 by Genoa
Third Prize: Calcula
Competing team: Evan Werlin M’14
The Cutting Edge of Nanotechnology
The company is the winner of a significant grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for its innovative, patent pending, manufacturing process.
2011 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: Stylitics
Second Prize: Velano Vascular
Competing team: Pitou Devgon RES’08/WG’10, Marc Montserrat WG’12 and Ravi Raghavan WG’12
Third Prize: Baby.com.br
Competing team: Davis Smith G’11/WG’11 and Thomas Kimball
Gear For Good
Davis Smith’s company Baby.com.br won 3rd Prize in the 2011 competition. The company quickly became one of Brazil’s most prominent entrepreneurial success stories.
Ready for a new challenge, in 2014 Davis founded Cotopaxi, “an outdoor gear brand with a social mission” with his Lauder classmate Stephan Jacob G’11/WG’11.
2010 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: Cortical Concepts
A device to make spine surgery safer for patients with osteoporosis or weak bones.
Second Prize: NanoLab
Competing team: Michelle Gaster C’06/WG’11, Chris Fortier WG’11, Sara Frew WG’11, and Dave Gilboa WG’10 (who went on to co-found Warby Parker)
Third Prize: R2R Therapeutics
Competing team: Ben Rhee WG’10, Vishwas Seshadri WG’10, Christine Chen WG’10, and Rayman Roghani WG’10
Packaging Traditional Indian Beverages
Founded by James Nuttall WG’10 & Neeraj Kumar WG’10, Paper Boat packages traditional Indian drinks, making the tastes–and memories–of an Indian childhood available to all.
Formerly known as Hector Beverages, the venture won the Committee’s Choice award in the 2010 competition.
2009 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: NIR Diagnostics
NIR Diagnostics device InfraVue was a wound assessment monitor that used infrared light to predict how wounds are healing.
Second Prize: CuddleBots
Competing team: Joseph Zwillinger WG’10 and Buzzy Boneau
Third Prize: Realistic Eye
Competing team: Srini Namineni WG’09, Erich Horn WG’09, and Chris Schaeffer WG’09
Bringing a Social Vision to the Eyewear Industry
Neil and Dave continue as Co-CEOs of Warby Parker. Jeff Raider went on to found Harry’s, providing quality men’s shaving products at a fair price.
2008 Grand Prize Winner: Solixia
Solixia, a radiopharmaceutical company, created an agent for diagnosing breast cancer and a treatment for ovarian cancer.
Second Prize: Innova Dynamics
Competing team: Alex Mittal ENG’07/W’07, Arjun Srinivas ENG’07/W’07, Calvin Peng ENG’07/W’07, Sasha Seletsky W’09, and Michael Young C’08/ENG’08
Also won the Frederick H. Gloeckner Award for Best Undergraduate Team.
Third Prize: Proteza
Competing team: Chrysta Irolla ENG’08
Invest In the World's Most Promising Startups
Alex went on to found FundersClub, a leading VC and online startup investing platform providing access to Silicon Valley and beyond, with his Wharton classmate Boris Silver W’10.
2007 Grand Prize Winner: NP Solutions
A polymer based injectable hydrogel treatment for back pain related to degenerative disc disease that was less invasive, more effective with fewer side effects than current approaches.
Second Prize: Nantronics
Competing team: Katerina Cai G’07/WG’07 and Frank Shi
Third Prize: Energetica
Competing team: Jed Brawley WG’07, Edouard Meylan WG’08, Pieter Staelens WG’07, Mathieu Peyron WG’07, Blake Sonnek-Schmelz WG’08, and Xavier Lombard
2006 Grand Prize Winner: MuscleMorph
MuscleMorph created a technologically advanced motor that was lighter, higher performing and more cost efficient than any currently offered.
Second Prize: IntelliStem Orthopaedic Innovations
Competing team: Jared Bernheim ENG’07/W’07/GEN’07 and Jonathan Danoff ENG’06
Third Prize: SalesRoads
Competing team: David Kreiger C’99/WG’07 and Myk Likhov WG’07
B2B Lead Generation
is now the nation’s leading B2B appointment setting and lead generation company.
2005 Grand Prize Winner: FibrinX
A tissue sealant that provides a safer and cheaper adhesive to prevent excessive bleeding during surgical procedures or after traumatic injury.
Second Prize: IntuiTouch
Competing team: Keshav Baljee ENG’05/W’05, Ashish Doshi ENG’05/W’05, Ashish Khanna ENG’97/W’97/WG’06, Justin Rapp ENG’06/W’06, Matthew Steege WG’06, Mashrur Hossain EE’05/W’05, and Michael Herr
Third Prize: Dynamic Biosystems
Competing team: Steven Chua WG’06 and Shiladit Sengupta
Reducing Greenhouse Gases
2004 Grand Prize Winner: InfraScan
InfraScan created a handheld brain hematoma scanner.
Second Prize: CelfCure
Competing team: Ashima Singhal WG’04 and Ajay Bakshi WMP’04
Third Prize: BioSpectrum
Competing team: Samer Hakoura WG’05 and Jonathan Goodspeed WG’05
Finding Head Trauma, Faster
2003 Grand Prize Winner: PAWS Pet Insurance
PAWS Pet insurance aimed to bring pet insurance to the U.S., and the four founders all went on to accomplish this goal. Chris and Natasha Ashton founded Petplan, while Laura Bennett and Alex Kroglik founded Embrace Pet Insurance.
Second Prize: Biogenomix
Competing team: Toh Philip WG’04
Third Prize: FerroSolutions
Competing team: Doug Ellis WG’03, Kevin O’Handley WG’03, and Asish Xavier WG’03
#1 Pet Insurance
Petplan, founded by Chris and Natasha Ashton WG’04, was rated the #1 pet insurance in America by PetInsuranceReview.com.
Next-Generation Pet Insurance
2002 Grand Prize Winner: MicroMRI
A medical imaging company with a non-invasive diagnostic tool designed to improve the manner in which osteoporosis is diagnosed, treated and monitored.
Second Prize: Q Systems
Founding team: Hal Goltz ENG’04/W’04, Lawrence Haverty ENG’02/W’02, and Nitin Sikka W’02
Third Prize: Brightpoint
Founding team: Daniel Deeney GEX’02, Vincent Natoli GEX’02, and Robert Willians GEX’02
2001 Grand Prize Winner: Integral Molecular
Integral Molecular creates innovative technologies for drug and antibody discovery targeting under-
Second Prize: Designware
Founding team: John Fox WG’01
Third Prize: Genoma
Founding team: Ben Doranz GR’98/WG’01 and Raymond Bower WG’02
Innovative Tech for Drug and Antibody Discovery
2000 Grand Prize Winner: eTechtransfer.com
A B2B marketplace for technology transfer in the life sciences.
Second Prize: NovaEx.com
Founding team: Jun Lio WG’00 and Adam Zong WG’00
Third Prize: Digipad
Founding team: Everett Alexander WG’02, Brent Chinn WG’01, and Matthew Murphy WG’01
2000 Grand Prize Winner: RadioXchange
RadioXchange was an e-marketplace to the radio industry that would create an Internet-based auction to sell remnant radio advertising inventory.
Second Prize: Living Strategies
Founding team: Lynn Dwyer WG’98, Christopher Gatti WG’98, and Sandeep Wadhwa WG’99
Third Prize: Surgisoft
Founding team: Dain DeGroff WG’99, Chris Latta WG’99, and Scott Graves WG’99