For the past several months I've been working with a group that came out of the National Library of Medicine's Scalable Information Infrastructure program. The grant has ended, but a number of the participants are taking the program out of the academic world and putting it on the fast track to commercialization.

Made up mostly of graduate students, the team has entered a number of collegiate business plan competitions. I spent last Friday and Saturday in Santa Barbara with the team at the 4th annual S.E.E.D. (Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development) produced by David Newton, professor of entrepreneurial finance at Westmont College. Business plans were submitted by collegiate teams from across the U.S. and our team was selected as one of nine to present to a panel of venture capitalists and angel investors. We made it to the semi-finals on Friday and came in second place on Saturday.

These competitions provide experience presenting to potential investors, responding to numerous questions, and sometimes winning prize money (but not at this event). Each competing team presented for 16 minutes, and answered questions for a full 20 minutes. Unlike a typical meeting with investors the judges were generous with advice and suggestions for successfully getting funded. The win for investors is access to dozens of potential investments. In addition to presenting to two groups of VCs, there were great keynotes by Yulun Wang, CEO of In-Touch Health, John Couch, VP Global Education for Apple, and Ali Velshi, Senior Business Anchor with CNN.

Pictured right Michael Callahan of Ambient presents to panel of VC judges in the finals.