Monday, February 16, 2009
A Web site for parents looking for professional but flexible work options and an online venture that allows merchants to offer direct discounts to Wake Forest University students have been chosen to represent the University in the 10th annual Wake Forest University Elevator Competition.
Five teams of entrepreneurs presented their ideas to judges Feb. 14 during the school's Escalator Competition, a preliminary contest for Wake Forest University students to earn the right to compete in the international Elevator competition event, scheduled for March 27-28.
The 2009 Elevator Competition again features both the traditional Business Plan category as well as the Social Entrepreneurship track.
Kevin Cain of the Babcock school will advance to the Elevator event with HomeBy3.com, which connects parents looking for flexible, professional-level positions with companies seeking employees for part-time, home-based, contract-based or job-sharing positions. Cain said, "I feel great about winning, especially given the awesome ideas that my fellow competitors had. I feel like this opportunity gives HomeBy3 the kind of momentum that we need to finally turn the corner and become a revenue-generating business."
Undergraduate Wake Forest students Ben Comer and Brett Apter, who will advance in the Social Entrepreneurship track, presented their plan for mySavu.com, which is currently online and growing. The Web site promotes Winston-Salem businesses that offer advertising discounts for students at Wake Forest.
"It always has and always will feel great to win," said Apter, who presented the team's idea Feb. 14. "In this case, the win felt even better given the circumstances. Ben and I were undergraduate students competing against graduate students. Ben and I regard the Elevator Competition as a great opportunity to learn and grow as entrepreneurs. This experience allowed me to look at our venture in a new light. I feel that the blend of encouragement as well as constructive criticism will not only better our method of presenting but also make a difference in our venture's outcome down the road."
Comer, though unable to present his idea to the judges Feb. 14, is excited to be moving on in the competition. "While I was not there, it definitely feels amazing," he said. "I really feel like we are taking this business to the next level. At the same time, there is still much work to be accomplished. We cannot get complacent and lazy. I consider myself blessed and fortunate to have this opportunity."
Dan Fogel, associate dean for Babcock's Working Professional Programs and executive professor of Strategy, served as a judge during the Feb. 14 Escalator event. "For me," he said, "the four most important items in the presentation of a business plan are the people -- their skills and commitment; the business model -- how they will make money; the opportunity -- is it a real opportunity that solves problems; and the core activities that support the business.
"These items were present in the winners," Fogel said. "The plans I reviewed had these elements, but the winner has a proven concept and demonstrated a knowledge of how the business would make money. Also, I could see clearly, in the winner's plan, all four elements I mentioned."
Diana Morse is a second-year Babcock MBA student and a chair of the event. She was impressed with the entrepreneurs who entered the competition and believes the winners will represent Wake Forest University well when it competes against 24 schools from around the world in the annual Elevator Competition. The entries, she said, were "more service-oriented this year."
"Being a part of this, I get to learn about venture capitalism financing and entrepreneurship," Morse said. "It's exciting to see new ideas coming out, finding real problems to solve."
Teams in the 2009 Elevator Competition will compete for $85,000 in cash and prizes. The top finisher in the Business Plan competition will receive $10,000 in cash; the highest-placing team that includes an MBA student will receive automatic entry into the Global Moot Corp Competition. The Social Entrepreneurship Competition winner will receive $5,000.
The Elevator Competition, first held in 2000, allows students from schools across the country and the world to test their skills at making the perfect "elevator pitch." Teams perform a two-minute pitch, supply a detailed business plan and prepare a formal presentation of their business venture.
"Developing and executing a new business is an amazingly difficult task, especially for students who are going to school at the same time they are developing their ideas," Fogel said.
"I am amazed continually that our students are not deterred by the difficulty and continue to learn and gain commitment from each presentation they make. The real winner is our society who will see many of these student ideas implemented to solve important social problems."
For more information visit - http://www.mba.wfu.edu/elevator