Brown University School of Engineering

RI Business Plan Competition Announces Semi-Finalists

April 14, 2017

The Rhode Island Business Plan Competition announced 15 semi-finalists in its 2017 competition, including four projects with ties to the Brown School of Engineering and three projects of engineering alumni.

The semi-finalists were chosen from 86 applicants who proposed businesses that address opportunities in agriculture, biotechnology, construction, education, food and drink, green technology, music, patient management and support, philanthropy, and retailing, among other areas of commercialization. Winners in the 2017 competition will be announced at a public ceremony on May 16 at The WaterFire Arts Center in Providence. Prizes valued at $271,000 will be awarded to winners and finalists.

Six Student Track semi-finalists were named, including four supported by Brown Engineering: Bloodhound, 5 Commas, BioPack, and Bridgewell.

Bloodhound is a system that automates oil rig inspections, allowing frequent, autonomous and more cost effective remote inspections. Bloodhound’s Remote Vision software enables operators in the oil and gas industry to remotely activate drones equipped with GPS, hi-res video, and thermal cameras to fly pre-programmed routes that gather rig inspection data and imagery. Bloodhound’s mentor, KVH, is a leader in GPS technology for maritime applications. Bloodhound inspections are more efficient than current inspection methods, and more importantly, safer. The team is comprised of six undergraduates taking Business, Entrepreneurship and Organization classes, including BEO concentrators Jason Pesek ’18, Bruce Hall ’18, Will Lace ’18, and Andrew Thompson ’18. Computer science concentrators Dean Bloembergen ’20 and Trent Green ’19 round out the team.

5 Commas provides a turnkey control system and personalized analytics that enables indoor farmers to successfully analyze and automatically obtain relevant crop data. The group consists of students from the School of Engineering’s Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship (PRIME) master’s degree program: Andrew Oberlander, Bharat Menon Radhakrishnan, Yang Zhao, Jinwon Lee, Ioannis Lempidakis and Siddhant Agarwal.


5 Commas Members: Ioannis Lempidakis, Yang Zhao, Bharat Menon Radhakrishnan, Andrew Oberlander, Jinwon Lee, and Siddhant Agarwal.5 Commas Members: Ioannis Lempidakis, Yang Zhao, Bharat Menon Radhakrishnan, Andrew Oberlander, Jinwon Lee, and Siddhant Agarwal.

BioPack is a system for blending graphene oxide and related materials with biodegradable polymers for the packaging industry, and is also a project of the PRIME program at Brown. Master’s students Yun (Ryan) Xu, Jiayi Cong, Dexuan Xu, and Nicholas Rothman are the team members.

BridgeWell is developing a device that provides a user-friendly means for creating precise, 3D imaging of internal flaws on roadway bridges. Shenglin Tian, Yichen Zhang and Swathi Perumalla, all PRIME students, are the team members.

BridgeWell Members: Yichen Zhang, Swathi Perumalla, and Shenglin TianBridgeWell Members: Yichen Zhang, Swathi Perumalla, and Shenglin Tian

A Brown team has won the student competition seven of the last eight years. Previous winners include Namito (2015), Dual Server Cooling (2014), Azavy (2013), Overhead.fm (2012), PriWater, now Premama, (2011), Speramus (2010), and Runa (2009).

Nine Entrepreneur Track semi-finalists were also named, including Richard Park’s ’16 and Bella Okiddy’s ’15, ScM ’16 Technologies Against Assault. TAA is developing a technologically-advanced swab to rapidly detect whether a given biological sample contains any usable evidence for analysis by a forensic lab.

Farmer Willie's is developing and marketing a ginger beer that has less sugar and fewer calories than those already commercially available. With help from engineering faculty members Barrett Hazeltine and Danny Warshay in their time at Brown, Nico Enriquez ’16 and Max Easton ’16 completed a series of independent study courses related to developing Farmer Willie’s. Current Brown philosophy and history student Fernando Guimaraes ’18 currently serves as the RI Sales Manager of the group.

Your Heaven Audio is a microphone system for amplifying and recording acoustic instruments that accurately renders acoustic sound. With five granted patents, the platform technology is used by acoustic musicians, recording studios and audio engineers. Team members include Inventor and founder Stephen Schwartz ’91, Prachi Jain ScMIME ’16, Arvid Tomayko-Peters ’07 and Rebecca Lister.

Entrepreneur track winners connected to Brown Engineering in the recent past include HM Solution (2015), Lucidux (2011, founded by Jason Harry, who is now a Professor of the Practice in the Brown School of Engineering) and Axon Labs (2006).

Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has been recognized as one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded prizes valued at more than $2 million to developing companies across many industries.