The Download: Business plans battle for funds at U-Md. competition

The audience at the University of Maryland’s annual Cupid’s Cup business plan competition this past Friday was seeing double. That is, two of the event’s top prizes went to twin brothers who created MyFridgeRental.com.

Adam and Eric VanWagner, both university seniors, rent refrigerator-microwave combination units to students in dorms. (Read more about their company in this week’s Business Rx column on Page 30.)

With contracts at 10 colleges, they pulled in revenue of $167,000 last year. In total, the duo took home $18,500 from the competition.

Cupid’s Cup is now in its sixth year at the University of Maryland and has become a fixture on campus as an annual celebration of entrepreneurship.

The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, which organizes the event, turned 25 this year. Former AOL chairman Steve Case, one of the region’s original dot-com entrepreneurs, was recruited to deliver the day’s opening keynote. Now the head of the Obama administration’s Startup America Partnership, Case used the spotlight to emphasize entrepreneurs’ role in job creation and global competitiveness.

“It’s not just about starting a business,” Case said. “It’s about making sure our nation has a great future as an innovator.”

High Life Entertainment, a company that combines event planning and consultation services to help struggling bars and restaurants, claimed the second-place prize. Other finalists included wholesale lobster distributor 207 Lobster, barbershop One Cut Above and Redex, an expense reduction consultancy.

Kevin Plank, founder of Baltimore athletic apparel company Under Armour, closed out the event. A 1996 alumnus of the University of Maryland, Plank is among the event’s primary sponsors and financial backers. Plank told the crowd that entrepreneurs exhibit a shared, definitive trait: “our ability to take an idea that is just a thought and maybe a wish . . . and actually make it into a reality.”

A buy for EverFi

District-based EverFi acquired another online education company last week in order to broaden the software it can provide high schools and break into the college marketplace, an executive said.

EverFi develops financial literacy software to teach high school students about credit card debt, college loans and other fiscal pitfalls they’re likely to encounter as young adults. The software has been used free of charge at roughly 3,000 high schools thanks to donations from foundations and corporations.

The company has now purchased Outside the Classroom at an undisclosed price, giving EverFi a foothold at colleges across the country. Outside the Classroom is best known for AlcoholEdu, an online tutorial about substance abuse.

“We thought that was just a really powerful combination,” said EverFi chief executive Tom Davidson. “They’ve got a really huge presence in the college market and we don’t. We have a really huge presence in the high school market and they don’t.”

Together both companies boast a staff of about 60, but Davidson said Outside the Classroom will remain a separate division and continue to operate out of its Needham, Mass., headquarters.

Pay to park

Rockville-based MobileNOW! will spend the next few months pasting stickers on 11,000 parking meters owned by Montgomery County to let motorists know the meters can now be fed via cell phone.

The company won a contract last November to expand a pilot program that it launched in Bethesda last January. The program will now cover other locales, including North Bethesda, Wheaton, Silver Spring and Montgomery Hills.

President Krista Tassa said the company collects a transaction fee from each payment and the deal with Montgomery County is the company’s largest municipal contract to date. The company licenses the technology from its developer, Estonia-based NOW! Innovations.

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.

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