Entrepreneurs seek opportunity of a lifetime

3.2.2006 Entrepreneurship, News Release, School News

Entrepreneurs will take their business ideas from the ground floor to the top – literally – in two minutes flat.

Every second counts as MBA students from across the nation board elevators and try to persuade venture capitalists to invest in their business plans during the seventh annual Wake Forest MBA Elevator Competition on April 8, 2006, at the Wachovia Center in downtown Winston-Salem.

For the winner, the two-minute journey could become the ride of a lifetime. The winner will receive cash and professional services, including legal and marketing services, totaling $45,000. More importantly, the winner gets the undivided attention of potential investors. Venture capitalists from three firms representing more than $500 million in early stage funds will serve as judges. The winning team will enter discussions with one or more venture capital firms, with the possibility of getting its business plan funded.

The Angell Center for Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management stages the event, which is the first of its kind in the country.

“This is a kind of Cinderella story for entrepreneurs,” says Stan Mandel, director of the Angell Center and co-founder of the competition. “This competition simulates reality. It’s not just about having a great idea. You have to be able to communicate that in a concise, effective way to influential individuals to earn more face time. You also must be able to make great formal presentations that let potential investors know the value of your opportunity. Finally, you have to wrap it all around a persuasive, entrepreneurial team with a compelling business plan.”

Twenty teams with completed business plans will be chosen to compete for the winning pitch during two elevator rides with the venture capitalists. Schools with teams that applied to enter this year’s competition include UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, New York University, Harvard, Hong Kong University, Michigan, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Wisconsin, Yale and Wake Forest. Nearly 70 teams applied.

The Elevator Competition is sponsored by Wachovia Corp. Other sponsors include Philip Morris, SAS, CapitalSouth Partners, Market Perspectives, RF Micro Devices, Progress Energy, Dell, Bundy & Co., !dealliance/Piedmont Triad Research Park, the Angell Center, 21C Retail Arts, Womble Carlyle, Mullen, SilkRoad technology, Vino del Sol (2004 Elevator Competition winner) and Eno River Capital. The event is organized by Wake Forest MBA students.

Some past winners of the competition are taking flight as full-fledged businesses. Altadonics Corp., which won in 2002 as a Wake Forest entry under the name D-Tec-Dent, is implementing its strategic business plan and gaining investor interest and financial backing. The company offers a patented 3-D technique for creating and storing impressions of dentures, allowing replacement within a few hours should they be lost or damaged. Altadonics is in the final stages of negotiating an agreement with the largest distributor of dental and health-care products throughout North America and Europe.

SightSpeed, a Cornell University entry which competed in 2002 under the name QVIX Technologies, has closed its first round of professional venture capital investment. The company creates real-time desktop videoconferencing software and has built a rapidly growing user base.

Vino del Sol, a successful importer of Argentine wines, was launched on capital raised as a result of winning the 2004 competition as an entry from the University of Mississippi. The company distributes more than 25 wines nationally throughout the United States and will provide beverages for this year’s event as a sponsor.

Wake Forest, the Babcock School and its Angell Center rank among the top tier of national colleges and universities for entrepreneurship in the fourth annual ranking of programs by TechKnowledge Point Corp. The survey previously was published in Entrepreneur magazine.

NOTE: Journalists interested in riding an elevator to observe student pitches during the competition must make their request in advance.