L-R: UCLA Law student Angela Li '17, dentistry resident Mehdi Roein-Peikar '19, Lowell Milken '73, and Richard Sandler '73
Students who are developing and marketing an inventive type of orthodontic braces took top honors in the UCLA School of Law's Lowell Milken Institute-Sandler Prize for New Entrepreneurs on April 19.
With $100,000 at stake - $70,000 for first place and $30,000 for second place - the LMI-Sandler Prize is the largest competition for entrepreneurs at any law school in the nation.
"In a dynamic global marketplace, it is essential that our future leaders develop a deep understanding of the constantly evolving issues - whether business, legal or investment - that are involved in bringing ideas to market," says Richard Sandler '73, a partner at Maron & Sandler whose gift established the competition in 2016.
Teams of UCLA Law students and colleagues from other schools at UCLA competed by offering detailed presentations on their innovative companies to a group of experienced venture funders and business attorneys. Twenty teams submitted plans to the second annual contest. Judges narrowed the field to the six groups who presented before a Shark Tank-style panel.
Mechanodontics - led by UCLA Law students Angela Li '17 and Jenny Chen '17, and dentistry resident Mehdi Roein-Peikar '19 - won first place and $70,000. Li and Roein-Peikar explained that their product is "a revolutionary type of braces that shortens the treatment time, cuts the number of visits to the orthodontist, is more aesthetic, more hygienic, and causes less overall pain for the patient." The braces sit on the back of teeth and use an advanced design that lends comfort while improving effectiveness.
Roein-Peikar first developed them when he was a resident orthodontist in his native Iran, and he met his teammates by networking at UCLA. He and Li told judges that they are performing clinical trials with five patients; ironing out legal, regulatory and patent matters with outside counsel; and seeking financing to expand their manufacturing and trials before a commercial launch. "It was a humbling experience, and we are grateful to have won the competition," Li says.
She added that countless hours of planning had benefitted her team in unexpected areas. "This competition has given us the opportunity to meet some really experienced and well-connected people in the startup world," says Li, who intends to practice business litigation after she graduates. "The challenge of the competition also forced us as a company to grow in new ways, which we will bring into our future plans and projections."
UCLA Law alum Jared Xu '16, UCLA Law student Sofia Beltran '17, and engineering student Tim Yingtian Yu '17
The second-place finisher, winning $30,000, was YT AG., which includes UCLA Law student Sofia Beltran '17 and alum Jared Xu '16, and engineering student Tim Yingtian Yu '17. Billing itself as "a healthcare technology company for the commercial pollination and beekeeping industry," the firm combines proprietary hardware, software and artificial intelligence analyses to help commercial farmers preserve their bee populations, which is critical to maintaining our food supply. Yu developed the plan after reading a 2013 Time magazine cover story about the looming crisis caused by massive bee loss.
Beltran, who came to UCLA Law to participate in its Resnick Program for Food Law & Policy, says, "This is a particularly exciting and valuable competition because it offers students a rare opportunity to directly apply the knowledge that they learn in business law courses to a real-life company, and I was so impressed with the work that my classmates did with their groups. It's also a chance to really give an idea some legs and transform it into something tangible."
The evening's audience award, and $1,000, went to Good Luck Gaming, a charity-oriented enterprise that enables video game players to interact with their favorite e-sports celebrities. It was a collaboration of UCLA Law student Peter Hammon '17 and five colleagues from UCLA's Anderson School of Management.
Other projects that made the final round included proposals to turn recycled materials into casual shoes, sell Tom Collins cocktails in ready-to-drink cans, and produce a mobile app that matches sports fans with the bars and restaurants that are showing their favorite teams' games on television.
"Being a lawyer is about much more than advocacy in the courtroom or boardroom," says Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy Executive Director Joel Feuer, who emceed the proceedings. "It's about developing skills that foster problem solving and critical thinking at a high level. That's what this competition strives to encourage."
L-R: Judges Michael Silton, Josh Green '80, Lowell Milken '73, Jules Miller, and Richard Sandler '73
The evening's final-round judges included Lowell Milken '73, the philanthropist and financier whose $10 million gift in 2011 established the Lowell Milken Institute at UCLA Law; Sandler; Josh Green '80, of Carbon3D and Mohr Davidow Ventures; Jules Miller who is with LunaCap Ventures and Evolve Law; and Michael Silton of Act One Ventures, who is chair emeritus of the UCLA Venture Fund.