Entrepreneurs compete for $50,000 prize


It was kind of strange to see Imran Karim talking to himself in the corner while others at this gathering were busy networking. Karim was practicing his pitch. He was there to compete against 12 others for a top prize of $50,000.

"It would be nice to walk away with $50,000," said competition finalist Brent Wagner.

This was a contest to pick the country's top entrepreneur of the year, sponsored by global business-to-business website Alibaba.com and Inc. Magazine.

"The best ideas have risen to the top, so it's a pretty formidable challenge," said Karim.

And a distinct challenge for a certain business reporter, who was asked to be one of the judges.

The products and services covered a broad range, from a water turbine to a set of games bundled for your next tailgate party.

"The heart of the product line features games that can be played with one hand so you can hold your drink with the other," said Wagner.

The finalists had to make their pitch in 90 seconds.

"This is a win, win, win business model because it makes everybody happy, and everyone gets what they want," said competitor Celine North of Giftalot.

North's product was a gift bag filled with product samples for airline passengers.

Exuberance was a hallmark of Jonathan Ross Shriftman, who has single gear bikes custom made in China.

"My e-commerce business model, combined with outsource fulfillment, allows me to keep overhead low, maintain healthy profit margins, and also scale up quickly," said Karim.

While the pitch was important, the sponsors were looking for more.

"We believe it's all about the person -- your leadership, your persistence, your passion, your dream to create a value," said Alibaba.com CEO David Wei.

The person who emerged the winner was Joel Smith of Forward Mobility. He invented a temporary prosthetic that gives a person with a knee, foot or ankle injury mobility without crutches.

A check for $50,000 will pave the way for large-scale production in Vietnam.

"I'm hoping we can probably double the factory size in the next four months," said Smith.

The competition is over, but hopefully the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is not.

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