Battle of the business plans
Who's got the best idea for a startup? Students from university programs around the country face off in FSB's annual contest.
By Elaine Pofeldt, FSB Magazine

(Fortune Small Business) -- What are the most promising businesses taking shape on the nation's campuses? To find out, FORTUNE Small Business magazine invited winners of university-based business plan competitions across the nation to compete in its fourth annual business plan contest.

Thirty-eight teams from top schools, from Columbia Business School to UCLA, entered the FSB Student Showdown. In the first two rounds of the contest, FSB's staff and nine judges whittled the teams down to 12 semifinalists, taking into account factors such as the strength of the management teams, the viability of each plan and each plan's thoroughness.

Photo GallerylaunchSee more photos
Vote for your favorite! Which business idea from which school do you think is best?
  DC50 surveying tool, BYU website, Columbia
  Group home, Gonzaga Univ.
  Verge Records label, NYU
  Laparascope defogger, Ohio State Univ.
  Framecaster video technology, UC-Irvine
  In-vitro fertilization procedure, UCLA
  Collectica online community for collectors, Univ. of Chicago
  SecureSurfer web security products, Univ. of Georgia
  Online listings of local rentals, Univ. of Iowa, Univ. of Miami
  MuscleMorph devices for artificial limbs, Wharton
or View results

The semifinalists' entries range from an online community for stamp and coin collectors to a record label for socially conscious hip-hop artists to a patented procedure for in-vitro fertilization that is said to reduce multiple births.

See the 12 top business ideas. Then vote for your favorite.

Ultimately, three teams of finalists were invited to compete in the last round of the contest on Sept. 7 in New York City. A student from each of the top three teams were asked to answer two challenging, surprise questions on its plan from an opposing team.

The judges will choose the final winners based on the teams' scores in the previous rounds, the delivery of their presentations, the overall quality of each plan and the team's ability to execute it. The winner will be announced in the November issue of the magazine.

This year's judges are Philip Bronner, a partner at Novak Biddle Venture Partners; Jennifer Fonstad, a managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson; Michael Greeley, managing general partner at IDG Ventures; Verne Harnish, CEO of Gazelles, Inc.; Kay Koplovitz, principal of Koplovitz and Co.; Andrew Sherman, partner at Dickstein Shapiro LLP; Darryl Wash, managing partner of Ascend Venture Group; Steve Watkins, founder of Entrex; and Ann Winblad, co-founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.

What team do you think has the best idea?

See the 12 top business ideas. Then vote for your favorite.


Best business ideas from VCs: The $100 million giveaway

10 of the dumbest business ideas

12 startups to launch now


Do you agree or disagree with our top three? Want to share your views on a particular plan? Are business plan contests a helpful exercise for would-be entrepreneurs? Would you fund one of the businesses selected? Let us know what you think by writing to us at

Brandi Stewart also contributed to the photo gallery that follows. Top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

Follow the news that matters to you. Create your own alert to be notified on topics you're interested in.

Or, visit Popular Alerts for suggestions.
Manage alerts | What is this?