Y. Innovators Win 'MBA Showdown'

Tad Walch
Deseret Morning News
November 1 2003

PROVO -- Amanda Bateman complained to her husband last year about the computer software at the Provo apartment complex where she worked. So the Brigham Young University student created a new company to solve her problem.

Now, David Bateman and his partners, including fellow BYU students Benjamin Zimmer and Michael Trionfo, are featured on the cover of the November issue of Fortune Small Business Magazine as the winners of the first national "MBA Showdown."

The magazine contest's grand prize is $50,000, which Bateman, Zimmer and Trionfo picked up Thursday during a ceremony in New York City. They were joined by Jeramy Morrill and Jordan Jones, the other co-founders of Property Solutions International.

The prize money may be just the tip of the iceberg, Bateman said. The magazine isn't due on newsstands until Monday, but it already has been sent to 1 million people with American Express business credit cards, prompting new business for Property Solutions.

"We're already getting calls," Bateman said. "Over the course of the next month, I think we'll see a big effect. It will be a strong launching pad for this business."

The victory continues a magical trend of financing for Property Solutions, which produces Web-based software called VantageXP for apartment complex management. The idea also won the $50,000 grand prize in BYU's business-plan competition in April. Bateman then launched the company with $160,000 in seed money he rolled over from his profits earned by DearElder.com, a Web-based LDS missionary-correspondence business he started with Zimmer.

All of the prize money is plowed back into the company, Bateman said.

Additionally, Property Solutions has partnerships with two apartment management companies and is seeking eight more. The corporate partners pay once for Property Solution's software, VantageXP, then receive free upgrades for life in exchange for help with the direction of the software.

More than 50 companies are using VantageXP to allow renters to pay bills online and provide other services during the company's beta-testing stage.

Those sorts of strategies won over an all-star panel of Fortune judges that included the founder of USA Networks, Kay Koplovitz.

"Who's hatching new ideas?" the magazine's cover asks. "We found out when MBAs from 49 top colleges clashed in our contest for best business plan."

Ironically, the BYU team doesn't have a single MBA student. Bateman is 18 credits shy of an undergraduate business degree, Zimmer graduated in English in April and Trionfo is a senior in electrical engineering.

They were allowed to compete because they won BYU's business-plan contest.

Still, the BYU business whizzes managed to beat a team from the University of Georgia that won second place in the Showdown with the KidSmart Vocal Smoke Detector, which rouses children with a voice recording. Third place went to the Harvard Business School's Jadoo Power Systems, which makes fuel-cell batteries for surveillance devices and broadcast cameras.

"It never hurts to beat Harvard at something," Bateman said.

Property Solutions made the Showdown's first cut, when 56 entries from 49 schools were winnowed to eight finalists. A 10-minute conference call with the judges in August was the final competition for the elite eight.

As for Bateman's wife, Amanda, she convinced her employer to use VantageXP. However, she quit her job a month ago to start her own property management company.

So is she using her husband's software in her new venture?

"Of course," he said.

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