gaming.jpgA water-cooled gaming PC David Gantt (left) had custom rigged led him and Chester Montefering (right) to create their plan for Therion, which will sell a $3,500 water-cooled PC for gamers.

Overheating is a problem in many situations: radiators on a 100-degree day, the economy when it grows too fast, and, of course, your personal computer – at least if you’re a serious videogame player like School of Business student David Gantt. His solution for cooling down hot gaming PCs scored Gantt and his teammate the undergraduate grand prize in this year’s Business Plan Competition.

“I’ve been a gamer since I was 10,” says Gantt, a rising senior who’s been cobbling together his own computers for nearly as long. He was playing on a distinct one in his dorm room freshman year, with fellow freshman and St. Louis native Chet Montefering looking on in wonderment. He was impressed by the computer’s cooling system: plastic tubing bundled inside the computer, with a distilled water-based solution coursing through it. “We should sell this,” blurted out Montefering, who had been an avid gamer himself. What was then merely a casual remark by a bright-eyed teenager would materialize two years later as Therion Computing, the pair’s proposed venture to build and market water-cooled PCs to gamers.

Gantt had rigged the cooling system into his custombuilt PC to protect it against overheating, which is a huge problem in high-end gaming that can’t be solved with a conventional fan and heat sink. “It’s not necessarily  the heat that’s an issue, but what it causes,” he explains. “The gaming card will downclock itself to try to keep cool, thus limiting its performance.” That, in turn, causes the computer to slow down, sophisticated graphics to appear jittery rather than smooth, and gamers’ input to be translated too slowly for gameplay. The worst outcome overheats both the computer and the gamer, a dual dilemma Gantt has overcome. “I’ve been using my handcrafted computer since 2014 and it’s stood the test of time,” he reports.

The business idea stood the test of the competition’s judges, too. But winning the undergraduate grand prize “was a lengthy process,” Montefering says, recalling countless hours spent researching the niche market for gaming computers, analyzing competitive models, devising a sales and marketing strategy, calculating financial projections and writing the 32-page plan.

Gantt and Montefering leaned on their academic experiences to get the job done. Gantt, a finance and classics major, crunched the numbers. He’s minoring in industrial engineering, which is Montefering’s major, so they  spoke the same language when it came to the hardware design. Montefering, meanwhile, is minoring in economics and had taken entrepreneurship classes at the School of Business.

Team Therion (Greek for “wild animal”) also relied on the real-world advice of their two assigned mentors, Elliot Smerling (MBA ’97), managing partner at JES Global Capital in West Palm Beach, and Ben Kosinski (BBA ’11), who runs Kosinski Ventures in New York. “They provided tremendous support,” Montefering says, citing several phone calls to discuss raising capital and setting sales goals.

A key element of the business plan is differentiating Therion’s computer from three existing companies’ water-cooled PCs aimed at the serious gamer. “Ours is like comparing a gourmet burger to the fast-food variety,” Gantt says. He says Therion distinguishes itself through “pretty incredible” aesthetics that gamers desire, a cooling system that protects more critical components than their competitors do and generally more bang for the $3,500 they’ll charge per computer.

Gantt is currently testing a few prototypes he built for family and friends, and he’s gaining online buzz with posts on gaming websites. While he and Montefering still have one year left to earn their bachelor’s degrees, they hope to debut their finished product and a marketing campaign this summer as they continue an ongoing search for investors. “We’re putting together the infrastructure to support a successful business,” Montefering says. If that happens, Therion Computing could be heating up – and cooling down – the gaming world before too long.

Spring 2017
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