MBA Student Colby Creedon Wins $100K Grand Prize at UAlbany’s $500K New York Business Plan Competition; Undergraduate Ryan Stern Takes 3rd Place in Social/Nonprofit Division

Two School of Business students used their business acumen to propel their teams to the winners circle at the New York Business Plan Competition, past 560 teams from 62 colleges and universities across the state, including Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, Syracuse University, Binghamton University, Stony Brook University, and the University of Rochester.  The 2014 competition offered $500,000 in prizes

Since 2009, the event has been presented collaboratively by the School of Business, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, and Syracuse University. After holding ten regional semifinal competitions, the statewide final round was held on the University at Albany campus. Thanks to the support of loyal School of Business alumni and the Research Foundation of SUNY, the New York Business Plan Competition is now the fifth largest student business plan competition in the United States.

Winning the overall grand prize of $100,000 was Glauconix, comprised of School of Business MBA student, Colby Creedon ’10, ’14, and three student scientists from CNSE. Creedon serves as Glauconix Vice President for Regulatory Affairs.

Undergraduate student, Ryan Stern ’15, who is earning a dual major in accounting and business administration in the School of Business prestigious Financial Analyst Honors Program, was on one of the few teams comprised entirely of undergraduates. His company, Open Campus, placed third in the Social/ Nonprofit division of the competition.  Created by two Skidmore College students, Open Campus links students with specific skills to small businesses who post short-term, goal oriented projects.

Creedon and Glauconix
Colby Creedon completed a major in political science and minor in history at the University at Albany, and is earning a JD/MBA through a partnership between the School of Business and Albany Law School.   Besides working at Glauconix, Creedon interns in research and development for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

An MBA elective, “Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Nanotechnology,” provided the opportunity for Creedon to meet students Karen Torrejon, Rajan Kumar and Feryan Ahmed. Torrejon had worked with other researchers to develop the technology on which Glauconix is based. They discovered a way to grow actual eye tissue; something previous researchers were not able to do.  Glauconix offers a glaucoma drug screening service that incorporates a realistic lab-produced eye tissue that substitutes for real eye tissue. Glauconix will help pharmaceutical companies determine whether potential drugs effectively treat glaucoma. Because genuine eye tissue is expensive, in limited supply and unreliable, Glauconix will accelerate the glaucoma drug discovery process.

Each student on the team has special expertise. Besides Torrejon, one member had returned to school for a second masters after 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, and another was an undergrad who is pursuing an MD/PhD next year. Creedon, the only student without a science background, focuses on the legal and business development activities of the company.

Glauconix’s first step was market research. Though potential customers had contacted Torrejon after reading her research, hard data was required. After the company identified a market, Creedon worked with the team to write a business plan and craft a presentation. Glauconix had to be well-prepared to pitch to the panel of venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers, and seasoned entrepreneurs.

Creedon’s MBA classes in finance, accounting, marketing and entrepreneurship provided him with the knowledge he needed.  Besides market research, he worked out the financials, including how much money the company will need in a year and whether Glauconix would earn enough to appeal to investors.

When Creedon started at Albany Law, his interest was securities law. Then he discovered entrepreneurship, which the School of Business has been emphasizing since Donald Siegel became Dean in 2008.  Creedon said, “As an entrepreneur, you are only limited by how hard you want to work.” A program on the History Channel, “The Men Who made America,” inspired him.  He said, “I want to have a positive impact on a large number of people.  Entrepreneurship has the potential to do this.” The pitch on Glauconix caught Creedon’s interest. He was attracted to the potential to find a cure for glaucoma. Now his plans involve seeing the innovative company come to fruition.  Glauconix will use the competition’s $100,000 grand prize to continue developing and growing the business.

Stern and Open Campus
Early this spring, undergraduate Ryan Stern was looking for finance-related experience beyond a summer internship. He registered with Open Campus, a service connecting students with small business, in the hopes of finding short-term freelance job.  The company’s founders, Skidmore students Ezra Levy and Marcella Jewell, noted his accounting and finance background and invited him to join their team. Stern said, “When I met them, I realized that we shared the same passion to get things done.” At the same time Open Campus brought Stern into the fold, a student from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was invited for her web design experience.

Stern said that he was immediately sold on the Open Campus concept because of its appeal to students: they prefer short term commitments to fit in between busy times at school. He said, “On their own schedule, students are able to complete projects that appeal to them while earning extra cash. They do what they want to do when they want to do it.” The experience allows them to build their skill set, make a good impression and show what they can do. Open Campus benefits small business by providing low cost high-quality work. Stern said, “There is value to small business and to students. Students have the opportunity to make an impact and help the small business community while building a portfolio of their expertise to showcase to future employers. We are leveraging technology to bridge the gap between the small business community and the local student talent pool.”

Stern built the financial model for the company.  He worked on the underlying economics of the business and helped developed a revenue structure. He said, “They had good assumptions about the scalability of the company but didn’t have the numbers to back it up.” Stern did the math and found that the numbers necessary for success were there.  

He notes that though the company has invested no funds in marketing, 60 businesses have posted projects and 100 students across eight campuses have registered with Open Campus.  The group will use their $1,500 prize to build an online presence and develop their web platform.

The Competition
The New York Student Business Plan Competition has grown over the years. Awards are given in the areas of Biotechnology/Healthcare, Energy/Sustainability, Information Technology/Software, Nanotechnology/Advanced Technology, Products/Services, and Social/Non-Profit.

School of Business Dean Donald Siegel said, “Student entrepreneurship is of the utmost importance for the future of New York State, and the New York Business Plan Competition is the perfect complement to the School of Business’s award-winning SEED Program, our chapter of Young Entrepreneur's Academy, and new educational programs in entrepreneurship. Additionally, the competition dovetails nicely with the new $64 million School of Business Building, which opened in late 2013 to promote commercialization and entrepreneurship at the university. This year, it was great to see some of the competition take place in our award-winning facility.   I applaud our partners, CNSE and Syracuse University, and our loyal alum, Michael Castellana, for his continuing support of this exciting competition as a title sponsor. I also thank the Research Foundation and SUNY for their generous financial support for this event.”

President and CEO of SEFCU, Michael Castellana, who received his B.S. and MBA from the School of Business and serves on the School of Business Advisory Council, said, “SEFCU is proud to partner with the State University of New York, SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, University at Albany’s School of Business, Syracuse University, and more than a dozen distinguished corporate partners to present the New York Business Plan Competition to encourage student entrepreneurs to follow their dreams of bringing a product to market by pitching real business plans to investors. This innovative program encourages entrepreneurship and helps to retain some of our best and brightest students along with their businesses right here in New York, the capital of commerce.”