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UCI students put business first

May 30, 2006|By Dave Brooks

A group of UCI students has become the first clutch of undergraduates at the university to win a prestigious award from the school's business academy.

Five students from the Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity took second place at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business' 7th annual Business Plan Competition, becoming the first group of undergraduate students to place in the competition's top five.

"We wanted to do well in this competition and knowing there were top-notch graduate students working on it, we knew it would take a lot," said participating undergraduate student Ronaldo Villalon.

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Law firm Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth sponsored the competition, with students competing to develop business plans of start-up companies.

The group, called "Uniqself", developed a software management system for online social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster. The group plans to develop its project into an operational business and was mum on many details for proprietary reasons, but participant Juefeng Ge said the new system would "redefine the way we look at the Internet."

Ge and Villalon worked with students Kristen Jue, Laurie Kwan and Jennifer Sandness on the business plan and hope to form a partnership to launch their product.

"The fact is that we're really dedicated and we really believe in our idea," Ge said, later adding: "Our main strength is that we have a whole lot of heart."

The students had to draft several business plans for the competition and make presentations of the project. Ge said his group is now beta-testing the software and hopes to begin development in one year.

Uniqself's second place seeding puts it in the running for $1 million in financing from funding group Tech Coast Angels, which is sponsoring an invitational this year for business students.

Taking first place in this year's competition was a four-person group led by Sharif El Badawi. Students Ron Wagner, Jaime Valenzuela and Hassan Wharton-Ali helped create the "framecaster," which converted video content across the internet.

Third place went to "Intellihealth," a team comprised of Samuel Mandell and David Visser who created an automated collection and analysis system of personal fitness data.

Two other UCI teams will be competing in the Tech Coast Angels financing contest. Athleos, a team of alumni and graduate students developed a business plan for management of wagering in online competitions. Another group called Nano Imaging, comprised of two PhD students at the school's Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department working with an economic student and a business student, developed a plan for a charged-couple device for nano-scale engineering.

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