Interdisciplinary skills reign at competition for business concepts

Ashley Chan, Director of Web and Multimedia


A chance to showcase business concepts and venture ideas is exactly what over a dozen teams took advantage of this year at ideaLabs, an annual business idea competition presented by the Northeast Ohio Entrepreneurial Education Consortium.

For the on-campus ideaLabs competition, CWRU teams submit business concepts that are reviewed by a panel of judges for prizes of over $1000. Due to growing interests to explore non-profit and social-good enterprises, ideaLabs added emphasis to social entrepreneurship this year with a specific prize dedicated to it.

An increasing number of students across campus come to CWRU LaunchNet for advice on developing ideas for public service, public health, social welfare and educational and environmental causes. Entrepreneurship challenges like ideaLabs help benefit the campus by focusing on activities that are already happening on campus, whether in labs or classrooms. Students are exposed to outlets for their creativity through competitions, where they can also learn about what peers are doing and gather feedback from judging panels.

The monetary prizes help develop their ideas as funds for materials and other supplies that they may not be able to pay for on their own. Prizes and recognition further help individuals or teams when seeking potential donors and investors.

According to Eugene Sasso, competition host and program manager of CWRU LaunchNet, the entries belonging to the winners were advanced and excellent, containing very sophisticated ideas.

Despite ideaLabs being a competition for submitting business ideas, the majority of CWRU students who competed held majors in various engineering fields. However, the competition received entries across campus representing arts and sciences, business, engineering and health sciences.

“We are also very happy to see the multidisciplinary nature of several of the entries,” said Sasso.

Sasso believes this collaboration bodes well for the success of the individual groups and indicates a growing depth and breadth of the campus entrepreneurial ecosystem. There was a range of ideas among competition winners, from a financial-technology company to a couple of health-based devices and an app.

The winning team, Wealth Efficiency Solutions (WES)’s core idea, research and preparation demonstrated both creativity and rigor. WES identified a need and created a plan to address it. The idea attempts to improve the pains of waiting in lines to pay to a further degree than what other payment options have done. However, the team did not pursue this idea immediately. The team spent much time brainstorming and researching before coming up with WES as their second idea. Matt Beem, fourth-year student studying chemical engineering and Mark Wang, second-year student studying computer science plan to bring merchants on board to use their products in the next few months.

“We have always had confidence in our team, but the feeling of winning a competition is definitely nice,” said Beem. “Getting chosen to win gives evidence that other people have belief in your idea. Being able to compete and have success among the great talent at Case is always humbling.”

The second place went to fourth-year students Fiona Liu and Lauren Walters. After receiving their $300 award, they are looking forward to eventually form partnerships to bring their product, 3-Tape to a larger market.

Additional reporting by Celia Wan, News Editor.