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Columbia Spectator Staff

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sat in the back row of class in college. "I was never one of those that sat in the front row. It was too dangerous to get called on," Bloomberg said in a speech at Columbia's Warren Hall on Wednesday morning. Bloomberg was reminiscing about his days in business school, having recently met with several teams of international business and engineering students—the finalists for the NYC Next Idea 2009 Global Business Competition. In Wednesday's press conference, hosted by the Columbia Business School—which helped administer the competition—Bloomberg announced the winning entrepreneurial team, which will receive a $20,000 cash prize and the opportunity to work for free for two years within one of the city's new business incubators. The competition, launched in February, was an initiative to promote New York City as an international center for entrepreneurship by allowing foreign students to pitch business ventures. Teams from 10 universities, representing six different countries, submitted proposals. Business School alumni served as the first-round judges. The winner, Greenext Technology Solutions from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, devised a new, efficient system of distributing and storing energy through remote sites across the city. The team is in the process of making a prototype of their product, XEstor, which serves as an interface to store energy in battery sites. The system stores based on energy demand, and can harness stored energy as a back-up source for gaps in supply. Vinayshankar Kulkarni, one of three team members, said in his presentation, "We use that data to optimize what needs to be supplied and what needs to be stored at a given time. This enables them to go for greener operation, more profits, and eventually the quantity of power that can supply us the best." He added, "We're looking forward to a greener America." BioFont, one of the other finalists, from the European Institute for Business Administration in France, presented a product to help handle citywide pandemic outbreaks. BioFont is a screening tool that can efficiently identify infected individuals. "It can be used as a first line of defense," team member Harleen Jolly said. "In a city like New York, there are 8.3 million people, but there are also 8.3 million very highly efficient infection carriers." Jolly added that BioFont could be used in schools, airports, and even households. The third finalist, NYCycling from the Institute of Higher Business Studies in Spain, promoted a zero-emission bike-share program with self-service stations for bike rentals. Bloomberg said the contest was designed to promote international enterprise in the city. "Find the next big idea, and grow it here in the Big Apple," he said. "Most of the students have never been to New York City before." In addition to enterprise promotion, the contest also supported immigration reform. "The sad truth is the talented young men and women you see standing on the stage are likely to have a difficult time getting the visas they need to grow their businesses here," Bloomberg said. "To remain the capital of the 21st century we have to make New York City and we have to make America a place that's welcoming to people with great ideas," added Seth Pinsky, president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which administered the competition. Columbia Senior Executive Vice President Robert Kasdin praised Bloomberg for his "commitment to education and commitment to the power of ideas." In an interview after the event, Patricia Bayley, a student from NYCycling, said, "More than anything, we were initially drawn to the prize." But she added that this is not the end of the road for the group's idea. "We are going to go back to school and talk to our adviser," she said. "It's very exciting." For the winners, the prize money is just a start. When asked whether $20,000 would be enough to launch the entire energy project, team member Sriram Kalyanaraman said, "We are going to need a lot more for an idea like this closer to $3 million."

Robert Kasdin Columbia Business School Bloomberg