At the DFJ Venture Challenge

I’m at the DFJ Venture Challenge at Columbia Business School.
Five finalists are competing for $250K and free office space to implement their plans.
Greenware is the first company – organic plates, cups and bowls that are biodegradable. On the trend of “green is good.” Also trend for desire for conspicous consumption goods. Changing the idea of ‘disposable’ – usable every day, washable several times, able to go in the oven. Palm leaves collected off the ground, processed with steam heat and pressure, through a UV oven, and usable as dishware. 80-90 billion disposable products are used every year in the country. This product is for the high end – 25-30% higher cost, but people will spend up to 44% more for consumer packaged goods that are ‘natural or organic.’ No trees are harmed. No oil has to be used, which reduces amt of items used to recycle other items.
They can make 500MM items from materials within 2 hour drive of the factory space. Can make quick, easy custom plates for companies, quickly, for same cost as others.
Highly scalable – they can collect about 1mm leaves a day, because they are actually waste or garbage that needs to be removed from the plantations anyway – need to be taken away from base of trees for proper water flow.
40-45% margin on the product.

Mezmeriz – from Cornell. 10 times lighter, very inexpensive high definition video projection unit made from carbon fiber base.
A bunch of large companies all expressing interest in co-investments. “Big Electronic Company” is working on product as a partner, Someone else looking for alternative mirror, and an innovative computer maker is looking for different type of display.
There are even more great companies, looking for new places to sell lasers.
(*Blog post modified per their request to remove company names. I usually don’t modify stuff but I want to support their efforts to close any deals they can. Go Big Red!)
They can make a 62″ TV at 5″ distance, instead of 36-40″ usually required in this space. IP secured from Cornell, working proof of concept, 5 patents in pipeline.
Nice hockey stick graph.
Tuck bschool guys – ATDynamics TrailerTail(tm) – device to put on back of a long haul truck that allows it to be more aerodynamic and fuel efficient.
Lots of usability, patent, shape questions. questions about sway of trailer, – safer for driver, safer for other drivers with less air flow problems off back of trailer.
They’re doing laptop-based measurements to measure fuel consumption of alpha test customers now.

Affine – Oject detection in video that will allow people to do targeted contextual video ads based on the currently playing video.
To me, good idea, I remember this idea from Sorceron in 2000, but they seem a bit light on how they’ll actually get advertisers to participate in this. They’re really a feature that should be sold to one of the ad networks. They seem quite naive about how the ad world really works – saying Nike will buy an ad based on a current video showing a basketball shows a lack of appreciation of how complex this problem really is.

SteriCoat – permanent antimicrobial coating for medical devices. First device coats a Central Venous Catheter and helps keep bacteria out of the body. Instead of a drug release, punches holes in the sides of bacteria, lasts longer, no resistance to it, no toxicity, novel polymer that doesn’t require a FDA approval for a drug. This one is really interesting. If it is in fact unique, I suspect this could be the winner of the challenge (I’ll make this prediction now, at 4:01pm,).

UPDATE: I was right, the medical guys won. DFJ did a really great thing and also gave a second prize of $100k to Greenware. Congrats to the winners! Thanks to the DFJ crew for having me.