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Y. Business Team in Fortune Finals

Tad Walch
Deseret Morning News
August 4 2003

The "MBA Showdown" is designed to provide a national stage for graduate students at top business schools to strut their stuff.

However, undergraduate students are allowed, and there are barbarians at the gate -- a team of Brigham Young University undergrads is just one step away from winning the contest sponsored by Fortune Small Business Magazine, a sister publication of Fortune Magazine.

The eight teams chosen as finalists made 10-minute presentations this week during a teleconference call with the five judges and magazine officials. The results won't be known until fall.

"I don't think they're going to tell us till October," said Dave Bateman, 25, a BYU senior and CEO of Property Solutions. "They're going to make us sweat this out."

Bateman and two other students launched Property Solutions this spring. The company created and sells software that brings e-business to apartment management. Renters can fill out applications and make payments online, and apartment managers can use the system to conduct credit checks.

The team won the BYU business plan competition in April, taking a first prize worth $50,000 -- $25,000 in cash and the rest in valuable consulting services.

First place in the MBA Showdown is worth another $50,000. Fortune will give $10,000 to the second-place team and $5,000 for third place. All three of the top teams will be featured in the November issue of the magazine, said Caroline Plauche, senior manager for communications for Fortune Magazine.

Which does Bateman want more, the money or the mention in magazine with a circulation of 1 million readers?

"Definitely the mention in the article," he said. "That'd be so huge for us. We're going after big companies. If we're featured in Fortune Magazine, it'll improve our ability to get companies to take us seriously. It would give us name recognition in the industry and help us network."

Undergraduates are allowed to enter the contest, and each team must have one student enrolled in school.

One of Property Solutions' strengths is its track record. Bateman founded DearElder.

com with Mike Trionfo, a senior in electrical engineering, and Ben Zimmer, who graduated this spring with an English degree. Bateman pumped $100,000 from profits made in the first company into the team's new project.

Zimmer is the company's vice-president, and Trionfo is the chief information officer. They hired two non-students, creative director Jeramy Morrill and development leader Jordan Jones.

The winner of the BYU competition earned an automatic berth in the MBA Showdown. Winners of similar contests at about 40 other schools also qualified. The judges narrowed the field to eight by reviewing each team's business plan.

Property Solutions has sold 15 systems in Utah and Idaho, Zimmer said. The fledgling company also has hired sales representatives in three other states -- California, Florida, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

The company, which also won the 2003 Utah Entrepreneur Challenge, is wrapping up beta-testing on its system and seeking additional financing.

"We've secured some investors, and we're still looking for more," Zimmer said.

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