A woman sitting in the Rochair, a manual wheelchair that won the Silicon Valley Business Competition for 2010

Wheelchair Whiz Inspires Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition Entrants

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

A woman sitting in the Rochair, a manual wheelchair that won the Silicon Valley Business Competition for 2010

Last year's Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition winner was RotaMobility for the RoChair, a manual wheelchair designed to keep its user healthy.

Do you have an idea for a business? SJSU entrepreneurs, innovators, job-seekers and business- savvy students will see if they have what it takes to turn their business plans into reality at this year’s Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition, culminating May 26.

The annual competition, now in its ninth year, aims to promote innovation at SJSU, reward student participation in new venture creation, and boost appreciation of SJSU’s contribution to entrepreneurship in the Silicon Valley, according to Anu Basu, director of the Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship within the College of Business.

“It’s an opportunity to get feedback from judges, professors, peers, and industry professionals on ideas,” Basu said.

The competition, open to all SJSU students, alumni, faculty and staff, have yielded approximately 60 entrants this year, including majors and professionals in the fields of computer science, biotech, engineering, business and hospitality.  Cash awards range from $500 for Best Written Business Plan to $10,000 for the grand prize, The Wanda Ginner Award.

Last year’s first place winner Michael Bayne, an alumnus with an MBA and master’s in systems engineering, won for his business plan for Rota Mobility Inc., a company that builds RoChair and RoTrike manual wheelchairs.

Bayne’s original idea had come from a family member who was prescribed a wheelchair. He observed the family member experiencing shoulder and wrist pain related to pushing the wheels, in addition to gaining weight from not being able to enjoy the benefits of exercise that most of us take for granted. Bayne then came up with the idea of a lever-propelled wheelchair that uses a rowing-type propulsion, eliminating injuries and providing ease in maneuverability.

“Having the ability to incorporate routine exercise and the stigma of being put in a scooter – there are a lot of things that apply to having a good-looking, well-functioning ergonomically sound ride.” Bayne said.

Bayne used the money that he won from the competition to pay for the prototypes and has been demonstrating his products wherever he goes. His advice for incoming competitors this year?

“The judges are looking to award those who simply don’t treat their presentations as a school report, but as something they would really pursue,” Bayne said.