Cross-College Entrepreneur Team Making Its Mark

by Marty Cook  on Monday, May. 5, 2014 12:00 am  

Carol Reeves of the UA’s Walton College has helped guide a number of teams to business-plan success. | (Photo by Beth Hall)

Iseman said he didn’t even know what pathology was when he joined the team, and, of the group, only Iseman and Coakley knew each other beforehand. There was also the fact that the team, calling itself BioBotic Solutions, would have to put together a business plan with the researcher in Little Rock and one team member in Conway.

Reeves and co-adviser Jeff Amerine said the team overcame any obstacles with good old-fashioned hard work and youthful exuberance. The team members’ differing areas of expertise turned into an asset, and they were relentless researchers, calling pathologists, medical suppliers and businessmen as they crafted their business plan.

The team found out that the average pathology lab handles 60,000 samples a year, and labs are facing a labor problem with technician shortage. The robotic system can handle one sample every 10 seconds, doing the work of three lab technicians, who would then be free to do other lab work.

The team had to work out how to make the installation of a robotic system affordable for the labs in order to justify the savings in labor costs.

It is a potential $400 million market annually, Zweig said, though not all labs, specifically the smaller ones, would benefit from a robotic system. The reduction of errors, either through contamination or misidentification that leads to a misdiagnosis, is more important.

“Many times a lab will not realize the mistake,” Sharma said. “One mistake in 100,000 is a life. We might not make that one mistake.”

The plan was constantly reformatted as new information developed or a pathologist pointed out a specific need a lab had. By February, the plan was in place and ready for competition, or so the team thought.

Reeves’ teams have raised more than $25 million in investment capital and started 10 businesses from their college business plans in the past 10 years, including promising Fayetteville startups such as BiologicsMD, Movista, Boston Mountain Biotech and cycleWood Solutions of Dallas. BioBotic performed multiple trial presentations while Reeves, Amerine and famed alumni such as Robyn Goforth, Ellen Brune and Douglas Hutchings picked at the holes in the plan.

“That was really helpful,” Eoff said. “It was incredibly wide-ranging feedback.”

Reeves, who has gained national acclaim for her entrepreneur leadership, deflects praise for her role in Arkansas’ success. She points to alumni who pitched in to help the next crop of business planners as the foundation of Arkansas’ dominance.

“People ask me why are you so successful, and I say look who comes back and helps every year,” Reeves said. “I don’t think the [big schools] have alumni who come back and help. I’m not the brains behind them.”

The young planners — all are 22 except the 20-year-old Zweig — responded to the critiques well and adjusted their presentation accordingly. When the competitions started, BioBotic was an immediate star.



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