Class of 2014
For Annie Weidert, a chance meeting during an open house led to prize-winning experiences. The senior biomolecular engineering major attended an open house at the Global Water Center in Milwaukee. It was there that she met Trevor Ghylin, the founder of Microbe Detectives, a start-up company focused on accelerating the adoption of DNA sequencing technology in the water industry. Annie’s interest in environmental engineering, combined with her education in biomolecular engineering, qualified her to become the applications engineer for Microbe Detectives. As such, she completes data analysis, reports and articles for publication for the company. They combine DNA sequencing with skills in bioinformatics, microbiology and engineering to determine the source of contamination in drinking water samples, monitor biologically-based processes such as wastewater treatment, and troubleshoot industrial problems related to biofouling.
Fast forward a few months to the Rice University Business Plan Competition. Microbe Detectives advanced to the finals of this competition, where Annie helped represent the company. In addition to a $1,000 prize for taking first place in their challenge round flight, Annie and the Microbe Detectives team received the $25,000 nCourage Courageous Women Entrepreneur prize. To be eligible for the prize, graduate-level business plan teams must have, in addition to standard qualifications: a woman as CEO or in a top leadership role or a minimum 25 percent woman-ownership, and all teams must have at least one female on the presenting team.
“The opportunity to prepare and present our pitch to dozens of real-world investors and successful entrepreneurs, field their sincere critiques and questions, and then work on revising and improving our presentation for the next round was a simultaneously grueling and tremendously valuable experience,” said Weidert. “The contacts, interest and encouragement we gained from potential investors and business leaders has proven valuable already as determine the next steps for our business.”