5 of 7
Fourth place: cycleWood Plastics
Fourth place: cycleWood Plastics
From left: Blair Cocanower, Nhiem Cao, Priscila Silva, Kevin Oden
School: University of Arkansas
Business concept: A lignin-based biodegradable plastic bag that can decompose in 150 days.

"I have just one word for you. Do I have your attention? Plastics! There's a bright future in plastics." Those lines didn't work on Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate. But they did for the cycleWood Plastics team, which cribbed from the film to introduce its product: a biodegradable plastic bag. They knew there was a market: Cities in 25 U.S. states have passed legislation banning or regulating nonbiodegradable plastic bags, which are primarily found at retailers. But the science sounded too good to be true. "We have three engineers on the team, and we're very skeptical," explains CEO Nhiem Cao. But after talking to several chemists, they were confident that the technology for lignin-based plastic was the real deal (lignin is a byproduct of paper production).

What was a class project is now a full-fledged venture, even as three team members work full-time. They're looking for $100,000 to license the patented technology from the University of Minnesota and produce a prototype bag. The team's CMO, Priscila Silva, who juggles a day job at Procter & Gamble, sees it as a mission. "I can't live with myself if I don't see this through."

Judge's comment: "They seem to understand the market for biodegradable grocery bags well. If they had actually brought some bags their case would have been a lot stronger."

NEXT: Fifth place: SmarterShade
Last updated May 24 2011: 12:47 PM ET
TNG Pharmaceuticals win the Rice University Business Plan Competition and takes home $647,350 in prizes. More
Second place Rice University Business Plan Competition winner turns Captcha, an online human-user verification test, into a game. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.