Grads push business plans – CU students competing for thousands in funds

A University of Colorado business plan winner is starting to look more like a business and less like a plan.

Metal Removal Technologies won first place at the graduate level of last semester’s business plan competition run by the Robert H. and Beverly A. Deming Center for Entrepreneurship. Its founders won $2,000, but the buck didn’t stop there.

By Robert Barba, For the Camera,1713,BDC_2461_2720041,00.html

Since their victory at the business plan competition, MRT’s founders have been getting a lot of attention. They were the first ever academic business plan team to present at the Venture Capital in the Rockies conference in February. The company was also accepted to the New Venture Championship at the University of Oregon, where first place garners a $25,000 prize and a spot in the national business plan competition, MOOT CORP, at the University of Texas-Austin in May. The competition will be April 8-10 in Portland.

"They are a great group," said Chris Wand, chairman of Venture Capital in the Rockies and a principal at Mobius Venture Capital in Superior. "And they have a great plan and have real potential."

According to the plan, MRT produces a filtration tank designed to remove heavy metals from industrial wastewater. The product, created by CU associate professor Mark Hernandez, will reduce the cost of filtration by 35 percent.

MRT states that manufacturers in the United States spend $2 billion to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

The business began in CU lecturer Frank Moyes’ graduate-level business plan preparation class where students first produced a feasibility plan stating the business’ potential to answer two questions.

"Will someone buy it?" Moyes said. "And will profit be made?"

Hernandez presented his invention to the class and Kevin Reilly, Elias Bachmann and Jon Alegranti took notice. That was in January 2003. More than a year later the feasibility plan has become a real startup company in its early stages of seeking seed funding, said Reilly.

"We are really excited about our potential," Reilly said. "This could revolutionize the way the current industry works."

Reilly said the team hopes to receive seed funding of $250,000 by the end of summer through an angel round of funding or venture capitalists. With such an immediate goal pending, competing for $25,000 might seem trivial.

Reilly sees it in a different light.

"These competitions give us exposure," he said. "We are being judged by real-world venture capitalists and interested parties and it could lead to getting funding."

The team’s participation at Venture Capital in the Rockies has gained the company national attention. A major venture capital firm in Illinois is looking at MRT, Reilly said. He declined any further discussion about this possible funding opportunity.

The company still has a way to go. Until the team lands funds, they won’t be able to scale the product to a commercial level.

"We need to take our technology out of the lab and be able to do all the things we say it will do," Reilly said. "But that takes money."

The company intends to be a fully commercial company within 12 months and the team continues to "turn over every rock" looking for funding for their company, Reilly said.

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