Business Plan Competition: Strength-building Shirt Most Prepared for Market

When Patrick Whaley was still a child, he first had the idea for the weighted, muscle-building clothing that would win the Most Fundable Award ($35,000 worth of legal, financial and other services) in Georgia Tech’s 2011 Business Plan Competition (BPC). The finals were held recently at the College of Management.

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Puribio won both First Place ($10,000) and Most Innovative ($10,000) awards in the 2011 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition. From left to right: Manish Gupta, Daniel Eyrich and Jane Kang with competition judge Rusty Pickering.

“When I was a kid, I was really skinny. To build up muscle, I would actually carry extra books in my bag,” explains Whaley, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Tech in 2010 and now leads the company Titin Tech. “So I started thinking, ‘Why couldn’t I just have clothing be weighted?’”

Titin Tech’s initial product is a weighted shirt that can be worn during workouts to build additional strength – or throughout the day for continual exercise. The shirt uses form-fitting gel pockets that keep the body cool while adding weight (six to 20 lbs).

Whaley had initially set his sights on the athletic market, but a life-threatening injury he suffered in mid-2009 expanded his vision for the product to include patients requiring physical rehabilitation. As he recovered from a gunshot wound to the chest suffered during an armed robbery, he realized that he could use the invention to aid his own healing process. “It was hard to lift my right side up after I came home from the hospital,” says Whaley, an amateur bodybuilder who lost a third of one lung from the shooting.

The patented shirt he developed recently became available for sale on the Titin Tech Website and orders are pouring in, Whaley says. Therefore, Titin Tech’s victory in the Most Fundable category might not seem so surprising. The award goes to the team deemed by judges to be most ready for the marketplace.

Intended as an educational exercise, the BPC attracts some participants who are simply interested in learning about the venture-creation process, while others know they are serious about developing real companies. Participation in the BPC is open to all Georgia Tech students and alumni of various degree programs who’ve graduated within the last five years.

In March 2010, during his last semester at Tech, Whaley won First Place and People's Choice in Georgia Tech’s InVenture Competition (an innovation contest not involving a business plan), receiving $20,000 total. The professional network and resources he’s gained through InVenture and the BPC have helped prepare him for success in the marketplace, he says.

First Place

In addition to the Most Fundable Award, the BPC also includes numerous other prizes. The Puribio team won First Place ($10,000) for its plan to market a hemodialysis machine for clinic, home and hospital treatments. Puribio also won the Most Innovative Award (a $10,000 service package).

Puribio’s technology is targeted at the growing number of people with kidney failure (more than a 100,000 cases a year). These patients typically must undergo treatment three times a week for three to five hours per session. Currently, only eight percent of dialysis is performed in patients’ homes. But Puribio could increase that percentage with its small, portable dialysis machine design. Other benefits would include less blood cell damage and the removal of more waste molecules than current technology, resulting in longer patient life.

Jane Kang, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering, has worked on this dialysis machine since starting the PhD program in 2008. To help develop a plan to market her technologies, BPC administrators helped her find MBA students Daniel Eyrich and Manish Gupta, who saw great potential in her work. Emory law student David Giannantonio, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees in biology (2006, 2008) from Tech, also joined the team.

Kang says that participation in the BPC, which includes a series of preparatory workshops leading up to the competition each spring, was of immense educational value and could help her bring the early-stage Puribio technology to market after she finishes the PhD program in a couple of years. “The feedback I received from judges was great and will help me attract potential investors.”

The Second Place winner ($3,000) was Boss Medical, which plans to market a new device to improve spinal fusion procedures. Third Place went to SpherIgenics ($2,000), which specializes in the delivery of biological therapies through the process of micro-encapsulation. In addition to Titin Tech, other finalists (who received $500 each) included Roadside Technologies, a system designed to warm roadside personnel of impending vehicular collisions; and Kiddie Collar, a drool-catching collar for babies that replaces a bib to prevent rashes and keep clothes dry. For a full list of winners, visit the Business Plan Competition site.

Thirty teams made it to the BPC semifinals. Judges for the different stages of the competition included numerous leaders in the corporate, venture capital, technology transfer, legal, and academic communities.

Sponsors included Georgia Tech College of Management, the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship, MaRC Sustainable Design & Manufacturing, Tedd Munchak Chair in Entrepreneurship, Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, Advanced Technology Development Center, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, AuditMyBooks, Troutman Sanders, Gray Ghost Ventures, Delaney, HLB Gross Collins PC, Executive Entrepreneurs Society, and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP.