After successfully making its mark on the G20 stage last November, an MBA team from Griffith University has continued to make business strides in a global arena.
Following a strong showing at the Bangkok Business Challenge in February, it’s ‘Next stop Texas’ for the team, comprising of Andrew Zaniewski, Nathan Pugliese, Joshau Salked, Matthew Kelly and Prassana Shanmuganathan.
“It’s billed as the Super Bowl of business plan competitions so we are looking forward to it in every way possible,” Andrew says.
“It’s a magnificent opportunity from a venture capital point of view. It is also a new challenge for the team to show we can adapt our model from previous competitions, and demonstrate a leaner, meaner model more suited to the US market.”
The Griffith MBA team initially came together about 12 months ago to put together a successful entry for the inaugural $100,000 G20 Global Business Challenge. Their innovative business plan to supply potable water in developing communities in the Asia-Pacific region caught the imagination of judges who considered 40 entries from 18 countries. The Griffith team ultimately took out third place, behind teams from Canada and Poland at a gala finale in Brisbane.
“Our team is determined to follow through on what we have achieved so far and we will endeavour to make it a commercial reality and not just another team assignment,” Andrew Zaniewski said at the time.
The team has been true to its word, establishing a business venture called 3rd Step Enterprises, and making a strong impression in Thailand at the start of 2015. Once again, the Griffith team led the charge from the Southern Hemisphere, and was ultimately nudged out for top spot by leading business schools from Cornell and Kellogg in the United States.
The annual competition hosted by Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration at Chulalongkorn University attracted 48 entries from around the world this year.
“This competition was a real challenge for us,” Nathan Pugliese said. “Over a series of rounds, we continually tweaked the plan and the presentation to incorporate the judges’ comments in the preceding round. We were the only Australian team to make the final round, and were up against the best US and Asian business schools. It was exhausting but at the same time it was a lot of fun.”
Their business plan concerned the application of two new technologies to the desalination of sea water for coastal and island communities who suffer drinking water shortages due to population pressure. The technology used a patented solar power generator and an advanced multiple effect distillation process to desalinate sea water and eliminate the need for diesel or electric power for desalination or for pumping.
“Once set up, these desalination projects draw on two inexhaustible natural resources, the sun and the oceans, for their power and their raw materials,” academic supervisor, Professor Evan Douglas (left), said.
“The cost of drinking water is projected to be only $2.06 per kilo-litre, and their projects will foster local employment and the growth of industry that requires potable water.”
For the forthcoming competition in Austin, Texas, which runs from May 7-9, the team’s focus will shift somewhat from social development to a more capitalist market.
“It’s another great opportunity to develop our knowledge as we operate at the other end of the corporate spectrum,” Andrew says. “They are very different markets but the inherent issue is the same — water scarcity.
“It’s also a wonderful chance to build new contacts from around the world and take the next steps towards commercialising our venture and, ideally procuring contracts for implementation in Southeast Asia and North America in the not-too-distant future.”