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Team GYAN wins the 2009 Kellogg Cup Business Plan Competition. From left: Esther Choy ’09, Supina Mapon ’09 and Pavan Singh ’09. (Not shown: Ramya Singh ’09 and Tiffany Urrechaga ’09.)

Team Gyan

From plan to profit

Kellogg students team up to win big at national business plan competitions

By Amy Trang

9/17/2009 - Four teams. Sixteen students. Four plans. Extraordinary results.

A record number of Kellogg teams took first place and advanced as semi-finalists in national business case competitions this past year. Student business plans ranged from a sustainable fish farm to an online global medical journal geared toward developing countries.

It was a first in Kellogg history to have this many teams do well at the national and international level, said Barry Merkin, clinical professor of entrepreneurship. Teams competed in notable competitions that included the Moot Corp. championship, known as the “The Super Bowl of World Business Plan Competition,” and competitions sponsored by Tulane University and Wake Forest University.

The competitions provide students with the opportunity to write and present a business plan that includes the strategy, mission, financing and risks of their idea. At each competition, the plans are dissected by real-world venture capitalists and business executives who provide feedback and sometimes actual funding to bring the plans to fruition.

“The effort to be viable competitors truly takes an extraordinary amount of passion, interest and research for many students,” Merkin said. “This year we had a confluence of events: four teams had the interest, work ethic and diligence to take on projects that not only could compete at national events but compete there successfully.”

Global Santé Journal

While taking Merkin’s Corporate Innovation and New Ventures class, Andrew Choquette ’09, Julie Gordon ’09, Cullen Malley ’09, Chetan Paydenkar '09 and Jack Zausner ’09 learned about the need for a new kind of medical journal that would bridge the communication gap between physicians in developing countries and their counterparts around the world.

They conceived Global Santé Journal, an online medical journal that would focus on the treatment of infectious diseases, including HIV and malaria, and be translated into the language of the developing world. The publication would increase the availability of high-quality medical journal articles to doctors and medicine practitioners in developing countries with the hope of improving treatment and reducing death.

“It was clear to us that the project was a great vision with solid backing and an opportunity to substantially improve the quality of care and research available on infectious diseases in developing countries,” Gordon said. “Most of us had had experience working with global health or in Africa, so the project was a perfect fit.”

The team’s idea advanced them to the second round of the Tulane Championship and the Dell Competition. The students also were semi-finalists in the Global Social Venture competition.

With its success, the Global Santé Journal team secured funding for two summer interns to work on the project, including Kellogg student Nas Alidu ’10. The journal is expected to launch in January 2010 and will be published in English and French.

Good Fish Farms

With a vision of creating self-sustaining food production that could feed communities anywhere, Alejandro Solis ’09 developed a business plan for “Good Fish Farms.”

The business was conceived as a sustainable fish farm that would supply fresh tilapia to stores and restaurants. The plan outlined a strategy to produce tilapia locally, close to the point of sale; the goal was to offset greenhouse gases and offer fresh fish free of hormones.

About 98 percent of tilapia in the U.S. is imported and comes mostly from China. The Good Fish Farms production system would produce green energy and improve the environment and public health.

The business won third place at the Wal-Mart National competition and advanced to the second round in the Dell Competition. Good Fish Farms also was a semi-finalist in the Wake Forest Challenge.


Winner of last spring’s 2009 Kellogg Cup, the five-member GYAN team sought to link employees to employers in rural India. GYAN, meaning “knowledge” in Hindi, would deliver English language and vocational training to the rural poor hired by employers who require a skilled workforce.

GYAN would train entrepreneurs as “micro-franchisees” who would receive computers and other vocational English instruction and business training materials in order to hire teachers and educate students.

The teammates’ enthusiasm for education drove them to pursue the GYAN plan, team member Pavan Singh ’09 said. “What I’ve learned is that a good team that is very diverse and talented is extremely important,” he added. “Equally as important is unconditional support and guidance as well as an excellent education from Kellogg.”

GYAN’s second-place finish at the New Venture Championship in Oregon won the team $10,000, along with an invitation to the prestigious Moot Corp. At Moot, the team advanced as one of 27 finalists from nine countries and won $1,000 for best written plan.

As a result of the team’s success in competitions and interest from investors, the team spent two weeks this summer in India forming relationship with foundations, nonprofits and investors to launch a pilot program for GYAN.

In addition to Singh, the team included Esther Choy ’09, Supina Mapon ’09, Ramya Singh ’09 and Tiffany Urrechaga ’09.


Inspired by his son who was diagnosed with autism, Keita Suzuki ’09 and his teammates created KAIEN, a for-profit enterprise that employs people with high-functioning autism to provide software testing services for the Japanese auto industry.

The team’s passion earned KAIEN the $20,000 first-place finish at the Tulane Championship. The team also was a finalist in the Dell Competition.

In Japan, 85 percent of those with high-functioning autism are unemployed, in part because their social- skill challenges are misunderstood by the public. But those with high-functioning autism are estimated to be 50 percent more efficient than normal software testers. Those statistics helped KAIEN drive the business’ purpose across to judges at the case competitions.

With interest from investors, KAIEN is in discussions to produce a pilot project with an IT corporation in Tokyo this year, Suzuki said.

“Kellogg was a tremendously helpful incubator for me in that I could find several people who have helped me move the business plan forward,” Suzuki said. “Due to the wide diversity at Kellogg, I could find students who are interested in social enterprise, who have a strong background (in) software development, and even a student who has a family member with high-functioning autism. This strong network at Kellogg is a huge plus; after I came back to Japan, I now rely on the network to find clients and investors.”

Other team members included Seung Chul Seo ’09, Thien Nguyen-Trung ’09, Robert Albright ’09 and Hiroshi Kinoshita ’09.