Croaking Frogs, Swiss Cheese, and Close Calls—A $25K Winner’s Tale


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find out which teams would move on to the finals. I’m not a small fellow by any standard, and I had a hard time eating. I’m a confident guy, pretty sure of myself, but I was nervous. Would it all end there? Of course, all this time my teammates Dustin Miller, Todd Fishman and Mehar Pratap Singh, sat back looking cool and collected. Was I the only one with high blood pressure or was everybody losing it…just on the inside? Then I realized that Dustin only had a small plate of fruit in front of him. Tricky.

As the finalists were being called, I was categorizing them in my head. Okay, that one was from one group, that one from another. And then Energizing Solutions was called, and I felt my heart sink. ES was from my group, which meant we were going home empty-handed. I looked over at Dustin, but his eyes were downcast. But we were wrong. This year’s final four was actually a final five. Two teams from our early group made the cut. And Nanocel was on to the finals!

The rest of the day seemed to fly by. For some reason, presenting to the final judging panel was much easier than pitching to the first. The finals were presented to a large room full of people, whereas the earlier one had been a closed session of less than ten people. Perhaps since we had reached the goal of making it to the finals, it felt like some of the pressure was off. We gave it the best we had and, in my opinion, gave our best presentation ever, right on time.

The day ended down on Seattle’s waterfront with a lovely awards dinner where we ate good food and listened to a great keynote speaker, Paul Thelen. It was torture. Connie Bourassa-Shaw, CIE‘s director must hold training sessions for her staff on keeping a perfect poker face because I looked long and hard at Sarah Massey, the organizer of the business plan, as well as at Lauren Witt and Pamela Tufts, the other great staff from CIE that made this possible, and got absolutely nothing. But in the end, when Nanocel was the name they called as the winner, it was worth the wait.

To the staff of CIE, TechTransfer, the UW MBA professors, Seattle University professors, our individual coaches, and to the hundreds of entrepreneurs, VCs, and angels that graciously gave your time and advice in the various rounds of this competition, Team Nanocel says thank you. We’re excited and proud to have won. But we know that our success in this competition was built on the backs of our school and our mentors. We know our future success will be gained the same way. We’ll do our best to make you proud!

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Daniel Rossi is a second year MBA Student at the University of Washington and lives in Seattle with his wife Mandy and dog Rufus. Follow @

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