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Medical devices lead UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition for 2003

– Medical devices have emerged as the leading product developed by semifinalists in the fifth annual University of California, Berkeley Business Plan Competition.

The 25 semifinalists were selected in the 2003 competition by some of Silicon Valley's leading venture capitalists from a pool of 58 executive summaries. They represent industries covering medical devices (28 percent), software (16 percent), and other healthcare products (12 percent). Out of the eight medical device plans submitted, seven advanced to the semi-final round. Additional categories included communications, consumer products and online services.

"The entrepreneurial spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area is unbreakable," said Jerome Engel, executive director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. The Lester Center sponsors this competition, which was founded by UC Berkeley MBA students in 1999.

"The popularity of this competition shows that Berkeley students and alumni continue to see opportunity in the commercialization of new ideas and technical innovation," Engel said.

The competition prides itself in producing viable businesses, as the successes of past participants demonstrate. First-year winner Timbre Technologies sold for $138 million to Tokyo Electron Limited in 2001. GetRelevant, a 1999 finalist, sold to Spanish Lycos for an undisclosed cash amount in 2002. And Hotpaper.com, also a 1999 participant, sold to GoAmerica for $10 million shortly after that year's competition. Educational venture WiseToad has been acquired by LeapFrog. The amount of venture capital raised by previous participants now exceeds $131 million.

Teams are competing for a $50,000 grand prize and access to some of Silicon Valley's preeminent venture capitalists. Competition organizers have raised a total of $120,000 this year to hold the event. Top-tier sponsors include Allegis Capital, Sevin Rosen, and ComVentures. Additional corporate sponsors include Chevron Corporation, Fenwick & West, FTVentures, Newbury Ventures, SAP Inspire, Techstock Ventures, Versant Ventures, and Woodside Fund, along with an individual donation from Kevin Warnock, founder of Hotpaper.com.

The semi-finalists will compete for eight finalist slots on April 4. The final round of judging will take place privately on April 22, followed by a public presentation of the eight finalists' business plans on April 23 at the Haas School.

All teams participating in the competition must include at least one graduate or current student from UC Berkeley or UC San Francisco. The teams are judged in three rounds by a leading group of venture capitalists who volunteer their time. Final round judges include Bob Ackerman of Allegis Capital, Beckie Robertson of Versant Ventures, Steve Domenik of Sevin Rosen Funds, Michael Rolnick of ComVentures, Susan Mason of Onset Ventures, Todd Brooks of Mayfield, and Russ Seigelman of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

To emphasize the educational value of the competition, all finalists receive written feedback from the judges on their business plans and presentations. Throughout the competition, teams can participate in workshops on a variety of entrepreneurial topics.