Opportunity Quest helps students start businesses

Treating diseases, washing trucks, consulting non-profit organizations and building houses were all ideas student teams tried to sell to a panel of judges at the second annual Opportunity Quest business competition.

Ten teams had 20 minutes each to present their ideas to a panel of judges in hopes of winning $10,000 to help start their companies.

During the first 10 minutes, the groups explained their business plans; the final 10 minutes consisted of a question-and-answer session in which the judges made sure the teams knew their markets.

“When I’m judging, I look for businesses I would want to be a part of,” said competition judge Devin Thorpe of the Thorpe Capital Group.

MBA students Robert Teel, Kurt Andrewsen and Heather Trecker comprise Thermascan, a startup company developing technology to treat vesicoureteral reflux (VUR)-a urinary tract disease that causes permanent kidney damage in children.

In current VUR testing, pediatric urologists must insert a catheter into the urinary tract and up to the bladder, which they fill with radioactive dye to take X-ray photos.

Thermascan’s technology, the “Thermaflux Scanner,” uses ultrasound to develop a picture so doctors can diagnose VUR without inflicting pain or using chemicals.

Dr. Brent Snow, of Primary Children’s Medical Center, developed the Thermaflux Scanner.

Once enough money is raised, the team said it can market the scanner to 60 percent of U.S. hospitals and 40 percent of hospitals worldwide. The group predicts that the product will generate more than $54,000,000 in sales revenue after five years.

The team’s members met at the U’s Lassonde New Venture Development Center. They were all part of the same venture capitalist club that writes business plans for technologies developed at the U.

But not every participant in Opportunity Quest works in groups. Levi Baker, an MBA student, is the only one-man team in the competition. He wants to start a consulting firm for the non-profit sector.

“I want to help businesses that help people,” he explained.

Baker said that many consulting firms do not target non-profit organizations because they don’t believe they can make money. But with more than 1,000,000 non-profit organizations in the United States and 4,000 in Utah, Baker said he’s found a niche in the market.

Before going to school for an MBA, Baker worked as a consultant and learned the business.

“Two years working as a consultant gave me as much knowledge as two years in MBA school,” Baker said.

As part of the Opportunity Quest, participants attend conferences on how to start their businesses.

“I think it is a great process,” Baker said. “Even if I don’t end up winning, it was still cool to learn how to do business. I now have the idea of what I would need to do to start a business.”

The judges will select the three top winners and announce them Friday.

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