Ready to Launch: West Coast EMBA Team Wins a Top Prize in Wharton’s Business Plan Competition

Congratulations to West Coast EMBA students Christiaan Schaeffer, Dr. Erich Horn, and Srini Namineni for winning third place in Wharton’s Business Plan Competition (BPC)!  Not only were they the highest ranked BPC team ever formed from Wharton West, but they also won $5,000.

The team was formed in Ron Pierantozzi's Entrepreneurial Ventures course when they were assigned to form teams and write a business plan. Erich, a practicing eye surgeon, had a friend in the field working on technology that would make artificial eyes look more natural by appearing to dilate. His friend was interested in having Wharton students work on the business aspects of the product so the group pursued that idea for the assignment.

The team soon began using the business concept as a basis for projects in other electives as well such as Prof. Leonard Lodish's Entrepreneurial Marketing course and Prof. Karl Ulrich's workshop on the Development of Web-based Services .  Christiaan jokes that it was “a class project that got out of control.”

Through the classes, the team came up with a revenue model where they would work with ocularists – who custom-make artificial eyes – to sell the “RealisticEye” product to patients. The product includes a polarized disk that is embedded in the artificial eye so the pupil appears to dilate as well as special polarized glasses that activate the effect. With more than one in 400 Americans currently wearing an ocular prosthesis in one eye due to injury or disease, the potential U.S. market exceeds more than 750,000 people.

After winning third place at the BPC’s Venture Finals, the group was excited and ready to move forward with the business, which will likely be run out of Oakland, CA where Erich has his practice. The team is currently in the process of incorporating with the help of the legal services they won in the competition and are adding some improvements to the business plan based on the judges’ comments. 

“All in all, we are ready to go,” says Christiaan.

And we wish them all the best of luck!