EMBA Team Takes Top Award in Wharton Business Plan Competition

A team of Wharton executive MBA students in Philadelphia was awarded first-place in Wharton’s Business Plan Competition. Second-year classmates Eric Heil, a venture capital associate at Domain Associates in Princeton, N.J., Matt Tanzer, an associate director at Shire Pharmaceuticals in Wayne, Penn., and Mrinal Bhasker, vice president of technology and principal at Audacious Inquiry in Baltimore, Md., won the $30,000 grand prize for their plan for RightCare Solutions.

Heil explains that the venture originated with research he conducted while an undergraduate student in Penn’s School of Engineering with Dr. Kathy Bowles of Penn’s School of Nursing. During that time, they worked on developing a software program that would allow nurses to assess patients during the admissions process to determine which ones were at the highest risk for readmission to a hospital within 30 days.

After Heil graduated, Bowles continued her research in the area, and over the years a commercial need developed for the product due to regulatory and reimbursement changes. Hospitals are no longer reimbursed for patient readmissions within 30 days and can even face financial penalties for readmissions. Now, it’s actually a $30-billion problem in the U.S., says Heil.

Connecting again when Heil returned to Wharton for the EMBA program, Bowles and Heil founded RightCare Solutions last year. Since then, Heil says he’s been able to apply many of his course materials, particularly those related to entrepreneurship, to really flesh out the commercialization strategy and tactics of the startup.

After pitching the idea in one of his venture classes, Tanzer and Bhasker became interested in the business as well. “Given their backgrounds and professional track record, it was a perfect fit,” says Heil.

Since their big win, the team has been busy talking to potential investors. Their next steps involve completing their financing, hiring several full-time employees, and installing their product at three to four major institutions.

“Wharton’s EMBA program is inherently a very collaborative program because we all have day jobs and other commitments so we need to collaborate together in order to deliver quality work on time. This is one of the greatest aspects of the program because we can help each other in so many ways for any type of business challenge or issue that may come up whether it’s forming a venture or working on an issue in an established business,” says Heil.

In addition to RightCare Solutions, another Wharton EMBA team also made it to the final round of the competition: Graphene Frontiers. Led by second-year student Mike Patterson, who serves as Graphene Frontiers' full-time CEO in Newark, Del., the venture plans to produce graphene “better, faster and cheaper than anyone else on the planet."

Selected by the National Science Foundation as a recipient of its NSF Innovation Corps Awards, several companies are now testing the venture’s materials and its technology is available for licensing.

“There is a real interest in entrepreneurship in Wharton’s EMBA program; the entrepreneurial spirit is strong here,” says Patterson.

Congratulations to all of our EMBA students in this year’s Wharton Business Plan Competition!

Related blog: Wharton EMBA Student Wins NSF Award for New Venture: Graphene Frontiers

Read more about Wharton's Business Plan Competition in the Wharton Magazine 5/2/12 Blog, Swimming with the Sharks.