Island student entrepreneurs shine in NY Biz Plan finals

Scrap rap: Farmingdale State College student entrepreneurs Cynthia and Orville Davis pitch their Scrap It recycling tech during the 2019 New York Business Plan Competition's final round.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Long Island may be a state-designated biotech corridor, but its student entrepreneurs have some pretty bright ideas regarding the environment, too.

That according to the 2019 edition of the New York Business Plan Competition, a privately funded venture-creation competition established in 2009 to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York’s colleges and universities.

Each of the state’s 10 economic regions, including Long Island, hosted regional competitions earlier this month, with 92 finalists (including individuals and teams) heading to the final round – held Friday in Albany – to compete for cash and business-development prizes in one of six categories: AgTech & Food, Energy & Environment, Military & First Responder, MedTech & Wellbeing, Technology & Entertainment and Consumer Products & Services.

Numerous teams from Long Island – representing Farmingdale State College, Hofstra University and Stony Brook University – made the trek north after emerging victorious from the April 9 regional round, held at NYIT’s Old Westbury campus.

And two of them walked away with prizes, both in the highly competitive Energy & Environment category: a Farmingdale State team on a recycling mission and an SBU chemical-engineering ace out to improve solar-farm efficiency.

Scrap It, a mobile app designed to make recycling easier and more transparent, captured first-place honors, a big win for Farmingdale State teammates Orville Davis, Cynthia Sainteus Davis, Shamika Earle, Shannon Williams and Jolicoeur Morl.

Shrish Patel: Clear choice.

Shrish Patel, a PhD candidate in SBU’s Materials Science & Chemical Engineering Department, took third in the category with his Solar Clear invention. Noting that dust on solar panels can regularly reduce solar power plant output by up to 25 percent – and by much higher percentages during and after dust storms – Patel has created a self-cleaning technology that uses proprietary electrodes to create electric fields that sweep dust from panel surfaces.

A total of 30 prize-winners were selected by a panel of judges that included venture capitalists, angel investors, investment bankers and seasoned entrepreneurs, among others. First-place teams each received $10,000, second-place winners earned $2,500 and third-place finishers snagged $1,000.

Runners-up – with special Concept Stage and Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise winners named in each category – earned $500 apiece.

No school captured more than one first-place award. Syracuse University and SUNY Geneseo led all comers with three total awards apiece; Marist College, Clarkson University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the University at Buffalo, the University of Rochester and Cornell University earned two each.

Of the 92 finalist teams, 28 hailed from SUNY campuses, including the winners from Farmingdale State and SBU. All told, schools in the state university network captured eight of the 30 prizes awarded in the 2019 competition, marking another strong showing for the SUNY system, according to Chancellor Kristina Johnson.

“Student entrepreneurship is a point of pride and focus at SUNY,” Johnson said Monday. “The winning teams are evidence of the innovation that exists on our campuses.

“I look forward to seeing the companies that will emerge from the 2019 NYBPC competition.”

Kristina Johnson: Innovation lives at SUNY.

Hofstra also fielded three teams in Friday’s final round: Oak Creamery, an artisanal and sustainable ice cream company launched by classmates Katherine Stoddard, Oliva Feldman and Alysia Fleming; Cress Health, a startup by biology student Michael Lai that leverages mobile tech to help post-rehab addicts fight off addiction; and Brow Boost, an organic eyebrow gel created by entrepreneurship student Tania Speaks.

Earlier this month, Speaks and Lai took second and third place, respectively, in the Hofstra-Digital Remedy Challenge, an annual business-plan pitch-a-thon that offers Hofstra student solopreneurs and teams business-building mentorship via the Hofstra University Center for Entrepreneurship and cash/biz-development prize packages sponsored by New York City marketing agency Digital Remedy.

Other 2019 NYBPC finalists included three separate teams representing Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, presenting a microbiome genomic-testing laboratory, an on-the-go inhaler tech for asthma patients and an innovative career-readiness program for college graduates.

Since 2010, more than 2,500 students have participated in the NYBPC and more than 100 businesses have been launched, according to SUNY. The NYBPC has provided over $1 million in seed money for the winning companies, which have earned more than $20 million in combined venture capital investments.