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:


Past Winners

2018 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Sanguis

Perlman Grand Prize: 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

Learn more about the 2018 semifinalists and finalists.

2017 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Twine

Competing team: Joseph Quan, WG’17 and  Nikhil Srivastava, WG’17

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

Learn more about the 2017 semifinalistsfinalists, and additional winners.

2016 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: BioCellection

Competing team: Miranda Wang C’16, Jeanny Yao, Alexander Simafranca C’18, Eric Friedman C’16, and Daniel Chapman

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

2015 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Bungalow Insurance

Competing team: Zack Stiefler WG’15 and Tom Austin WG’15

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

2014 Perlman Grand Prize Winner: Slidejoy

Competing team: Sanghoon Kwak G’14/WG’14, Jaeho Chung alumnus, and Robert Seo WG’12

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

Competing team: Jean-Mathieu Chabas WG’13 and Venkat Jonnala WG’13

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

Competing team: Eric Heil WG’12, Matt Tanzer W’02/WG’12, and Mrinal Bhasker WG’12

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

2011 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: Stylitics

Competing team: Rohan Deuskar WG’11 and Zach Davis

Stylitics is a fashion technology and data company and creator of ClosetSpace, the complete personal style management destination.

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

2010 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: Cortical Concepts

Competing team: Stephanie Huang M’13, Jason Hsu, Christopher Komanski, Evan Luxon, and Nicolas Martinez

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

2009 Michelson Grand Prize Winner: NIR Diagnostics

Competing team: Pitamber Devgon RES’08/WG’10, Xiaoming Fang WG’09, Bosun Hau GEN’09/WG’09, and Armen Karamanian GR’09

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

2008 Grand Prize Winner: Solixia

Competing team: Brian Smith ENG’98/GR’01/WG’08 and Irene Susantio WG’08

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

2007 Grand Prize Winner: NP Solutions

Competing team: Serena Kohli WG’07, Patrick Mayes GR’08, Jason Covy GR’10, Peter Buckley GR’09, Brian Bingham GR’10, and Neil Malhotra FEL’09

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

Competing team: Rodrigo Alvarez GEN’05, Kevin Galloway ENG’04/GEN’06/GR’10, Howard Katzenberg WG’06, and Rahul Kothari WG’06

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

2005 Grand Prize Winner: FibrinX

Competing team: Dhaval Gosalia GEN’01/GR’05/WG’12 and Jonathan Goodspeed WG’05

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

2004 Grand Prize Winner: InfraScan

Competing team: Sandeep Naik WG’04, Samonnoi Banerjee WG’05, and Baruch Dor

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

2003 Grand Prize Winner: PAWS Pet Insurance

Founding team: Chris Ashton WG’03, Natasha Ashton WG’03, Laura Bennett WG’03, and Alex Kroglik WG’03

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

2002 Grand Prize Winner: MicroMRI

Founding team: Onne Ganel WG’03 and Matthew Pickens WG’03

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

Founding team: Ben Doranz GR’98/WG’01

Integral Molecular creates innovative technologies for drug and antibody discovery targeting under-exploited membrane proteins such as GPCRs, ion channels and transporters.

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

2000 Grand Prize Winner: eTechtransfer.com

Founding team: Yujiro Hata WG’01, Richard Hanbury WG’01, Stephan Jenn WG’01, and Myung Lee WG’01

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

Founding team: Kevin Spain WG’99, Maury Apple WG’99, and Brian Richards L’99/WG’99

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

Questions? Email Cathy Ogur.