School of Business Students Are Winners At New York State Business Plan Competition

University at Albany President George Philip, Associate Professor Sanjay Goel, and School of Business Dean Donald Siegel, stand with MICROrganic Technologies: the winning team of the Cleantech/Sustainability track of the New York State Business Plan Competition: Nick Querques ’09, ’11, and RPI students Mark Lyons, and Brent Solina.

Two UAlbany School of Business teams competing in the inaugural New York State Business Plan Competition claimed top prizes in a field that included student teams from Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Syracuse, University of Rochester, RIT, Clarkson, and RPI.

Students submitted business plans in four tracks: Healthcare, Cleantech/ Sustainability, Services/ Non-Profit, and Nanotech / HiTech.

A UAlbany School of Business/RPI team was the first place winner of the Cleantech/Sustainability track. Their firm, MICROrganic Technologies, was founded by Nicholas Querques, a UAlbany MBA student, who also received an undergraduate degree from the School of Business in 2009. Nick serves as CFO of this company. The UAlbany MBA student collaborated with two RPI students, resulting in the type of regional/inter-institutional cooperation that UAlbany School of Business Dean Donald Siegel is trying to foster.

Working with childhood friend Mark Lyons, an MBA student at RPI, Querques focused on developing an optimal business model. Querques met Brent Solina, a Biochemistry and Biophysics student at RPI, at the 2010 Tech Valley Business Plan Challenge, the forerunner to the current event. Solina spearheads the technical work for the firm. The work of Querques and his team was recognized earlier this spring, when they earned second place at the Loyola University Chicago Business Plan Competition.

Their winning idea: microbial fuel cells that convert the chemical energy in wastewater to electricity. This project is much more than an academic exercise. In June 2010, the team incorporated their business, MICROrganic Technologies. Their original focus was organic waste digestion, but shifted their attention to fuel cells six months ago.

All three students will graduate this year and are committed to seeing their project to fruition. After finding that municipalities are interested in their work, the team is pursuing seed money to implement a yearlong demonstration project in the Albany County Sewer District. Querques sees a need for this technology. He said, “We are serious about attracting investors. Wastewater treatment facilities use 5% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Thirty billion gallons of wastewater are processed each day.” Querques said, “I am committed to launching this thing. I am very much the entrepreneur.” Indeed. Last spring Querques placed second in the Price Chopper Innovation Challenge for a smart phone application that allows shoppers to scan their items as they put them into their carts.

According to Querques, the New York State Business Plan Competition was different from others he has been involved with. He said. “We had access to not only judges in the investment community but also to public entities like NYSERDA to allow us to showcase our business to a broader range of investors.”

The third place winner of the Cleantech/Sustainability track was Green Fox Systems, the team that won the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition of the Wal-mart Better Living Business Plan Challenge held at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, placed. Read their story here>

University at Albany President George Philip, Associate Professor Sanjay Goel, and School of Business Dean Donald Siegel stand with the team members of Green Fox: Jay Sherwood ‘12, Rosti Spitchka ‘12 and Sajid Mahmood ’12.

The State Employees Federal Credit Union was the title sponsor of the event, which offered $100,000 in prize money.

SEFCU President and CEO Michael Castellana ’84, ’92, who serves on the School of Business Advisory Council and on the board of the University at Albany Foundation, said, “As a business leader, encouraging entrepreneurship is a great way to stimulate our economy, add jobs, help make a positive impact in our community, and inspire young people,” and added, “SEFCU is pleased to be part of such an exciting initiative that brings today’s workforce together with tomorrow’s business leaders in an effort to foster technological advancements that will benefit us all.”

University at Albany School of Business Dean Donald S. Siegel said “The New York State Business Plan Competition serves as a focal point for our recent efforts to promote student entrepreneurship, and to use our new School of Business Building as the catalyst for effective commercialization of ideas and intellectual property developed at the university. I also applaud Michael J. Castellana, president and CEO of SEFCU, who received his B.S. and MBA from the School of Business, for supporting this important competition as title sponsor.”

The School of Business and the College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering at the University at Albany, the Lally School of Management and Technology at RPI, and Union Graduate College School of Management hosted the state-wide business plan competition on April 28, 2011.