07/15/1999 07:00:00

Caltech's Annual Business Plan Competition Supports Start-Up Company

PASADENA—The start-up company Synthetic Sound Lab, which is developing a new generation of music synthesis and composition tools, has been awarded $10,000 from the Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering in the annual California Institute of Technology Business Plan Competition.

Synthetic Sound Lab is the brainchild of Mike Davies, a Caltech graduate student in electrical engineering, recent Caltech graduates Mike Astle and Steve McCoy, and current Caltech students Jeremy Kemper and Michael Fitzgerald. "We will be offering a combination of computer software and hardware products, marketed at amateur and professional musicians, that will allow our customers to express their musical ideas with greater ease and finer expression," says Davies, who formulated the business plan as an undergraduate working on an electrical engineering project.

Dean Schonfeld, the Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering's manager of technology transfer, explains, "We're creating a new industry. Unlike other more traditional engineering centers, we can't rely exclusively on established companies to transfer our technology to industry. By supporting competitions such as this, we hope to encourage students to make the transition from the academic world to the business world." Working to translate the understanding of biological systems into a new class of electronic and mechanical devices, the center's goal is to create an enabling technology useful to industry.

The Center for Neuromorphic Systems Engineering's contribution to this year's business plan competition allowed for two $10,000 prizes to be awarded. The other $10,000, sponsored by Glenn Hightower, a Caltech alumnus and the founder of Green Hill Software Inc., a leading supplier of software development tools for embedded applications, went to realMOVES, a start-up company specializing in computer animation.

In its second year, the Caltech Business Plan Competition, conducted by the Caltech Industrial Relations Center, is designed to encourage, appraise, and promote business ideas from within the Caltech community. The two $10,000 prizes represent an investment designed to serve as start-up capital for the new venture. In addition, other organizations supporting the competition may offer the new venture start-up professional and business services. The winning business plans must both impress the panel of reviewers and provide the best investment opportunity.

Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and an academic staff of about 280 professorial faculty and 130 research faculty. The Institute has more than 19,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 1,700 on campus and 5,300 at JPL.

Over the years, 27 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni. Forty-four Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award. On the Caltech faculty there are 77 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 69 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 49 members of the National Academy of Engineering.

Written by Sue McHugh