Direct Marketing Idea Wins Business Plan Contest

Two MBA students who are developing a software system for direct marketing in the dental industry won the 2003 Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business.

Michael Moyer, 31, and Alyson Tesler, 28, will share the $25,000 first-place award. Their business plan for Vicarious Communications, Inc. beat 58 other plans submitted this year.

The Vicarious plan is for a new marketing software system to help manufacturers and suppliers of dental products such as teeth whitener or invisible braces more effectively target market their products through dentists.

The program matches patient profiles created in the dentist's office with specific marketing programs set up by product manufacturers. Dentists then select the campaigns they are interested in and Vicarious sends patients a customized version of the manufacturers' promotional material on behalf of the dentist.

Although the plan is being applied first to the dental profession, the software can be adapted for use in other fields such as optometry or veterinarian recommended pet products.

"The Vicarious plan is creative, attempts to solve a real problem, and has a genuine shot at working," said Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago GSB and faculty director of the school's Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.

Green Hedges, a company that plans to provide insurance against declining home values, shared second place in this year's business plan contest with Iterative Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that develops antibody therapeutics. Iterative Therapeutics' first application targets the multiple sclerosis. Each second place team will receive $12,500.

Business plans submitted this year ranged from software and biotech companies to retail products and homeland security. "Some of this year's teams were so committed that they put up their own money or raised research grants in an effort to get their businesses started," said Ellen Rudnick, clinical professor of entrepreneurship at the GSB and executive director of the Polsky Center.

A group of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs served as judges for the annual contest. Founder and primary sponsor of the event is Edward L. Kaplan, the chairman and chief executive of Zebra Technologies. Other sponsors this year were the Altheimer & Gray law firm; Fred Dotzler, managing director of De Novo Ventures; Silicon Valley Bank's Chicago office; and Amanda Peak, an associate at Silicon Valley Bank.

"The quality of the thought process in the business plans has clearly improved," said Edward L. Kaplan, founder of the contest. "Critical issues were addressed, the presentations were crisp, and the Q&A sessions were very effective," he said.

The New Venture Challenge started in 1996 as a way to encourage MBA students at the University of Chicago to put their entrepreneurial vision into practice. In addition to instruction from top entrepreneurship faculty, students receive training and feedback on their business plans from industry professionals.

Since the New Venture Challenge was founded, 20 team entries have gone on to become viable, operating companies.

New Venture Challenge judges were:

Collin D. Anderson, Cofounder, Past President, and Chief Executive
Digital Innovation

Stephen S. Beitler, Managing Director
Dunrath Capital

Fred Dotzler, Managing Director
De Novo Ventures

Gian M. Fulgoni, Chairman and Cofounder
ComScore Networks

Kathryn Gould, General Partner
Foundation Capital

Leon Heller, Founder of Fastweb
And principal of Varin Reality LLC

Karen Kerr, Managing Director
ARCH Venture Parnters

Venetia Kontogouris, Managing Director
Trident Capital

Robert Lunn, Founder
Lunn Partners LLC

Joe Mansueto, Chairman, Founder and Chief Executive
Morningstar, Inc.

Bred Maxwell, Managing Director
MK Capital

Barry J. Moltz, Cofounder
Prairie Capital

John Oxall, Partner
Sevin Rosen Funds

Michael P. Polsky, Founder, President and Chief Executive
Invenergy LLC

Douglas Reed, M.D., Managing Director
Vector Fund Management

John Van Dyke, President and Founder
Dakota Water Systems

Immanuel Thangaraj, Managing Director
Essex Woodlands Health Ventures

Robert Zieserl, Managing Director of KB Partners


The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is a leader in entrepreneurship education, offering 15 primary courses in the field. The school's Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship coordinates research, teaching, and entrepreneurial experiences.

The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business is one of the oldest and largest business schools in the world. It offers full-time and part-time MBA programs, a PhD program, and open enrollment executive education.