Winners Named in 2017 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition

Seven Teams Share Prizes Valued at a Record-Setting $271,000

PROVIDENCE – (May 16, 2017) – A one-year-old company that is developing an easy to use liquid cleaner and applicator for removing bacterial contamination of prostheses was named the top winner in the 2017 Rhode Island Business Plan Competition, which awarded prizes valued at $271,000 to seven competitors.

The prize pot was the largest since the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition first awarded prizes in 2001.

BI Medical, led by James Wagner of Coventry, took home $93,900 in winnings – $15,000 in cash and $53,900 in professional and consulting services as the MedTech Award winner, plus a $25,000 bonus cash award.

Wagner said the synthetic prosthetic liner cleaner his company has developed will allow him to succeed in a growing market that lacks an easy to use, long lasting solution to the problem he identified.

He noted that Rhode Island is an attractive place to build his company, because it provides access to "exceptional higher education and research facilities" and has affordable commercial space and housing, a pro-business state government, and a supportive business community.

Winning the Entrepreneur Track was Farmer Willie's, based in Pawtucket and led by Max Easton, which is marketing a craft ginger beer that has less sugar and fewer calories than others already commercially available. Farmer Willie's received $15,000 in cash plus $42,350 in professional and consulting services.

Winner of the Student Track was Tvar EdTech, led by Alex Tavares of East Greenwich, studying for a master's degree in technology, innovation, and education at Harvard University, who is developing a phonics teaching device that lets students practice the most time-consuming step of phonics instruction independently. Tvar EdTech was awarded $15,000 in cash and $42,350 in professional and consulting services. 

Winners were announced today at a public awards ceremony, sponsored by the Everhope Foundation, at The WaterFire Arts Center in Providence.

"This year's winners and finalists are addressing a wide range of business opportunities that have potential to become strong growth companies," said Competition Co-chair Anthony Mangiarelli, partner with the Providence-based accounting firm of KLR. "I and my colleagues across Rhode Island's business community look forward to helping them prosper in the months and years ahead."

Lauding the event's sponsors, Co-chair Peggy Farrell, partner in the law of firm of Hinckley Allen, said, “The Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has become an integral part of the local startup community because of the outstanding support provided by our many sponsors. We would not be able to do this without them.”

This year's competition, the fourteenth time that the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has been held, was supported by a record number of 63 sponsors.

In addition to the winners, finalists in the Entrepreneur Track were:

  • Care Thread, a cloud-based, clinically-integrated mobile and web application that delivers patient-specific information in real time, to enable accurate communication across clinical care teams. Principal applicant: Nick Adams, Providence.
  • Crave Food Services Corporation, a food system technology and consulting company that facilitates the delivery of healthy, fresh, sustainably-produced food to schools, hospitals, and restaurants through WhatsGood, its online ordering system. Principal applicant: Matthew Tortora, North Kingstown.
Finalists in the Student Track were:

  • 5 Commas, which is developing a turnkey control system that provides relevant crop data and personalized analytics to indoor farmers. Principal applicant: Andrew Oberlander, Brown University.
  • Echowear, which is developing a cloud-based system that enables health care providers to remotely monitor patients. Principal applicant: Nicholas Constant, University of Rhode Island.
Finalists in both tracks received $5,000 in cash, along with services valued at $10,650. 

More than 40 past Rhode Island Business Plan Competition participants are currently operating, having created 500 jobs and buying services and supplies from Rhode Island companies.

A total of 86 applications were received this year. To be eligible to win prizes, applicants agreed to establish or continue business operations in Rhode Island.

Sponsors of the 2017 Competition

Sixty-three organizations—including private businesses, professional firms, banks, investors, colleges and universities, nonprofit and service organizations, and public agencies, as well as six former competitors— sponsored the 2017 Competition. 

Lead sponsors of the 2017 Competition were Bryant University, Everhope Foundation, Hinckley Allen, Integrated Media Group, KLR, Locke Lord, Materials Science Associates (former competitor), MedMates, and Sprout.

Also sponsoring the 2017 Competition were Bank of America, Barlow, Josephs & Holmes, Ltd., Betaspring, Brown University Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, Center for Women and Enterprise, Cumulus Media, Envision Technology Advisors, FM Global, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses at CCRI, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, GrowthLab Financial, Hatch Entrepreneurial Center, Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund, Roger Williams University, Social Enterprise Greenhouse (former competitor), Tech Collective, URI College of Business Administration, and Verizon.

Sponsors also included AAA Northeast, Bank Rhode Island, The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company, Business Development Company, Care New England Health System, Citizens Bank, Collette Travel Service, Delta Dental of Rhode Island, Dimeo Construction Company, The Hilb Group of New England, The Idea Turbine, IGT Global Solutions Corporation, The Moore Company, Navigant Credit Union, Richard Carriere, Slater Technology Fund, Teknor Apex, and The Washington Trust Company.

Additional sponsors included BankNewport, Cherrystone Angel Group, Classic Hassocks, CompNet Insurance Solutions (former competitor), CVS Health, Davol, Deepwater Wind, EpiVax, Freedom National Bank, Gilbane Building Company, Hayes & Sherry Real Estate Services, Johnson & Wales University, Nabsys, Newport Biodiesel (former competitor), Rajiv Kumar (former competitor), Starkweather & Shepley, and StormTree (former competitor).

About the Competition

Established in 2000, the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition has been recognized as one of the top 40 business plan competitions in the country. To date, it has awarded prizes valued at $2.3 million to developing companies across many industries. See full details at