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Two BYU students win third place in Houston business plan competition

Precision Surveying Solutions sells specialized calculators

Experience paid dividends at the Rice University Business Plan Competition in Houston, where a seasoned team from Brigham Young University won third place and took home $9,500 in prize money.

Adam Robertson from Santa Rosa, Calif., a recent graduate of BYU’s Marriott School of Management, and Tim Wessman, a junior from Idaho Falls, Idaho, majoring in manufacturing engineering, won $7,500 for placing third overall and an additional $2,000 for writing the best executive summary.

They presented plans for their startup company, Precision Surveying Solutions, which sells specialized calculators equipped with communication technology to professional surveyors. In fact, the team made a quick detour on their way to Houston to meet with a potential customer. Such real-world business experience gave them an edge at the competition.

“Many of the judges were just amazed and wondered why we were there,” Wessman said. “Most of the companies at this competition have an idea but nothing more. The fact that we already have customers really set us apart from the other companies.”

The three-day event featured 36 teams from a field of 140 from around the world. Teams made written and oral presentations as if pitching their companies to potential investors. The judges evaluated the presentations on the quality of the idea, the strength of the management team, and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written and oral presentations.

“The judges grill you with questions on why your business won’t work,” Robertson says. “They judge you on how worthy your company is of receiving investments.”

Many teams promoted plans built around new technology. A team from Johns Hopkins University won first place with a computer program that explores alternative uses for prescription medication. Second place went to a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology touting a new anti-bacterial coating for artificial hips.

The enhanced calculator from Precision Surveying Solutions showed such promise that several judges — all of whom are small-business investors — approached the team privately to express interest in investing.

The team’s success in Houston follows a string of triumphs at various competitions. They previously placed second in the 2006 BYU Business Plan Competition, the 2006 Fortune Small Business Competition and the 2007 Utah Economic Summit and Funding Competition.

Writer: Arie Decker

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