Mengdie Chen Vlad Saveljeus
Auburn University MBA students Mengdie Chen and Vlad Saveljeus earned a share of $25,000 in funding and services as their teams finished first and third, respectively, in the third annual Tiger Cage business pitch competition finals held March 31.
Chen and industrial engineering graduate student Rong Huangfu, both of China, partnered with industrial engineering student Robert Granzow, of Camp Hill, Pa., to form BioErgo Solutions, a bio-ergonomic device that uses wearable technology and body sensors that captures data when workers are subject to awkward postures or repetitive motions that are risk factors for injuries. Their first place finish earned them $10,000 and legal assistance provided by the California-based law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The winners will also receive space at the Auburn Business Incubator.
Chen, who is married to her teammate Huangfu, was the Tiger Cage’s first female finalist. “This was a great experience to put what I’ve learned from business school into practice,” she said. “The business theories and cases suddenly came alive and became a great tool to guide me thoroughly about our business. The Tiger Cage made me crave for more business knowledge and gave me a better understanding of real-world businesses.”
Saveljeus, of Chattanooga, Tenn., and chemical engineering doctoral candidate Michael Minkler, of Brookfield, Mo., received $4,000 for Honey Do, a peer-to-peer mobile app that enables individuals engaged in custom projects to find talent locally and nationally.
Second place honors went to Sole Line, a storage and display solution for collectibles developed by sophomore software engineering major Gibson Wang, junior electrical engineering major Berk Anadur and junior business administration major Frank Nguyen, all from Auburn, Ala. They won $6,000 and also earned $500 more by winning the People's Choice Award, as voted by the audience.
Finishing fourth was Senior Solutions, an online platform focused on retirement community entertainment developed by sophomore finance and piano performance major Trent Briden, of St. Louis. who was awarded $2,000.
Presented by the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, Tiger Cage rewards the best early-stage products, services or business concepts developed by Auburn students. The four team finalists made 5-minute pitches and answered questions from a panel of judges. They had advanced from the semifinals held March 3.
The final round of Tiger Cage was the highlight of the second day of the Auburn University Entrepreneurship Summit and was held at The Hotel at Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center auditorium. The summit included a ticketed black-tie Hall of Fame gala honoring top alumni entrepreneurs on March 30. Honorees included Auburn University Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductee Walter Woltosz, a 1969 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering graduate and the co-founder and CEO of technology company Simulations Plus; Spirit of Auburn Family Entrepreneur Award winner Jack Nix, a 1967 business alum who converted a former skating rink into the state’s largest antique mall; Entrepreneur of the Year Jon Butts, a 2004 business graduate who founded fast-growing Atlanta-based firm Muscle Up Marketing; and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Justin Lambert, a two-time Auburn graduate (engineering and MBA) who is the founder, owner and CEO of fast-growing women’s fashion boutique The Mint Julep.
The summit also featured the Junior Tiger Cage, a business pitch competition for high school students. the AU LAUNCH Innovation Grant Program faculty pitch competition and the Top Tigers firm-recognition luncheon. Top Tigers recognizes 60 of the fastest-growing companies founded, owned or led by Auburn University alumni.