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2nd place: Rebellion Photonics
2nd place: Rebellion Photonics
From left: Anne Robin, Frances Parker, Allison Lami, Robert KE ster, Tadzia GrandPré
School: Rice University
Business concept: Technology that enables a portable device to detect and identify chemicals in real time while taking a photo or video
Judge's comment: "They did a fantastic job presenting and answering all of the questions. It's a great idea -- and an effective product, if they can execute it."

As a business plan contestant, CEO Allison Lami had "my first angry moment" during the first-round presentation after an audience member asked her to explain how Rebellion's device works. "After this, let's answer your business questions," she scolded. Lami's frustration, she later explained, was with the tight 15-minute allotment for taking questions. "While we love technical questions, you have to educate and answer within a strict time limit," she later says. "Complicated products don't tend to do well in competitions."

Or so she thought. Rebellion's patent-pending technology, which bioengineering Ph.D. student Robert Kester developed with his professors, uses an array of mirrors to break apart and record an image so that software can instantly analyze chemical composition. The $1.6 billion market for the technology includes applications for security, pharmaceutical manufacturing, agriculture, scientific research, and energy exploration. With a $3 million grant already, Rebellion needs $1.25 million more.

"People from a broad range of industries are really excited," reports CTO Kester, 28. "We've got to figure out how to stay focused."

NEXT: 3rd place: GlucaGo

Last updated June 11 2010: 1:32 PM ET
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