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March 31, 2008

Student, faculty entrepreneurs elevate their sales pitch to victory

Nathalie Duval-Couetil
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A Purdue University senior in health sciences and a graduate student seeking his MBA beat out 30 other competitors Friday (March 28) at the second annual Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition.

John Mullen, of Dayton, Ohio, won the student competition for the best two-minute sales pitch for his company EcoDisc Inc., which is developing a biodegradable shooting target.

Second place went to West Lafayette junior Vince PeGan, a management major, for his company idea CardKeeper Concepts. Brian Paplaski, a Libertyville, Ill., junior in accounting, was third for his concept FreeLectric.

In the category for faculty entrepreneurs or representatives from Purdue Research Park companies, Bob Caswell won in pitching his concept for IPrivacy Manager, which would provide online security service for social networking sites.

Della Jules of the Purdue Research Park company Jinsitec LLC finished second; and Wei He of IV Diagnostics, also a Purdue Research Park company, was third.

Winners in the two categories received $1,000 for first place, $500 for second and $250 for third during the event, sponsored by Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

In a surprise announcement after the event, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. provided a grant that matched the winnings of the top three finishers in each category.

"This was a stellar group of students and faculty, and all the pitches were strong. We really kicked it up a notch from last year," said Nathalie Duval-Couetil, director of Purdue's entrepreneurship and innovation program. "But this was a competition, and we had to pick the top performers from the two categories. The judges did a great job, too."

Participants were asked to quickly describe their product or service, its market and size, how they plan to make money, their leadership team and their competitors, said Duval-Couetil, also associate director of the Burton Morgan Center, where the certificate program is based. Three minutes were allotted for follow-up questions about the pitchers' product or service.

Twenty participants were undergraduate students from as far away as Hong Kong and Florida to as close as West Lafayette and Carmel. The other dozen were faculty or entrepreneurs affiliated with the Purdue Research Park.

The competition was sponsored by Otis Elevator Co. and the law firm Bose McKinney and Evans.

The five judges for this year's competition were former Purdue President Martin C. Jischke; Bruce Kidd, director of entrepreneurship and small business for the IEDC; Stacie Porter Bilger, director of university relations for the Indiana Venture Center; Stephen Kempf, Indianapolis branch manager for Otis Elevator; and Jeff Kirk of the law firm Bose McKinney and Evans LLP.

Purdue's Burton Morgan Center is a platform to launch technology-based enterprises based on university research, working closely with faculty, students and Indiana entrepreneurs to bring research and technology to market.

Purdue is in the first full year of a $1.5 million grant from the Kauffman Foundation to make entrepreneurship education an accessible campuswide opportunity for all college students.

The grant to Purdue and the Burton Morgan Center is part of a $200 million effort by the Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation to transform the way entrepreneurship education is taught at the nation's colleges and universities.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, (765) 496-3133,

Dave Kitchell, (765) 496-9711,

Source: Nathalie Duval, (765) 494-7068,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: To arrange interviews with the Elevator Pitch Competition winners from the two categories, contact Phillip Fiorini, Purdue News Service, at (765) 496-3133,

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