School of Business Undergraduates Head to the “Superbowl”

College of Charleston seniors Darren Boulton and Alex Parker were part of the team that won the UC-San Diego Rady School of Management Student Venture Open – they were also the only undergraduates competing. They will now go to the world renowned Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, the self-described “Superbowl” of business plan competitions.

“It is a direct reflection on the entrepreneurship concentration to have the only undergraduates in the competition take home the top prize,” says Kelly Shaver, an entrepreneurship professor. “This was an extraordinary opportunity for them, and their performance is an extraordinary achievement.”

Their team included two graduate students from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and was the only one from the east coast. They won an $8,000 cash prize for their business plan for a cancer therapy drug in development by SphingoGene, a company founded by Dr. James Norris of MUSC.

Norris served as the team’s scientific mentor and Shaver coached the team.

The students’ work with SphingoGene is a direct outgrowth of Shaver’s biomedical commercialization course (ENTR 451), which is also  cross-listed at MUSC (CGS-729) and co-taught by Dr. Mark Kindy, a neuroscientist at MUSC.  Through the course, students work directly with Charleston Innovation Center companies and MUSC laboratories on medical commercialization efforts. SphingoGene’s work has been one of the class projects in the course.

The Venture Open is a national competition. It was held at the San Diego Convention Center last month, in conjunction with the premier high-technology meeting of the WBT Innovation Marketplace. Student travel to the competition was supported by MUSC and SphingoGene.

The Global Venture Labs Investment Competition will be held at The University of Texas at Austin in May 2013. The top prize is $135,000.

For more information, contact Shaver at