Monday, May 21, 2007

DFJ East Coast Venture Challenge: 1st Annual

Today I spent the greater part of my Monday listening to various start-ups pitch their businesses at my alma mater Columbia University.

The event was sponsored by all three DFJ arms (DFJGotham Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Draper Triangle Ventures) and the number of student based companies was a solid 12 teams.

I only attended the Finalist Round in which the top five companies were called back to compete for the First Prize of $250k and six months of free office space - courtesy of Sunshine Suites.

1. Greenware, Columbia University
2. Mezmeriz, Cornell University
3. AT Dynamics, Dartmouth
4. Affine Systems, Harvard
5. SteriCoat, Princeton

Let me preface the fact that we did not find out the winner until after watching Tim Draper sing his awe-inspiring song "The Riskmaster". I took a crappy cellphone video of it.

Tim's closing comments on US based opportunities to grow companies are important.

The US is the one country in the world that is hindering and inhibiting the growth of our "startup" culture.

1. Quota Limits on H1-B visas - How else are we going to get brilliant people to work in America if we only supply 65,000 visas per annum?
2. Sarbanes-Oxley - This is slowing down finances for companies, as well as making accounting a costly process.

And the winners are:

1st Place: SteriCoat - a pharma company that wants to make catheters with a special anti-bacterial coating. Really smart doctor guys from Princeton. Go Tigers!

2nd Place (this was a suprise gift of $100k): Greenware - Manufactures reusable goods out of Palm leaves (which are through a 15-step process made into plates). A green company with a sound business plan.

It was a good event and I hope to attend next year.