A virtual reality platform that provides 3D data management, artificial intelligence via gesturing based navigation…A retinal prosthetic that aims to restore vision to those blinded by macular degeneration…A smart alarm cell phone application that wakes the user at the optimal point in their sleep cycle…
These and other amazing entrepreneurial ideas will be in the spotlight Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28, in North Carolina, when Wake Forest University hosts its annual and highly-regarded “Elevator Competition.”
Two minutes on an elevator is all they’ll get, but members of 29 teams from 23 top universities, including Wake Forest University, will use that slice of time to deftly talk up their business ideas, as they compete in the 10th Annual event.
This year’s primary sponsors of the Elevator Competition, which is student-run by Wake Forest University graduate business students, are Altria and SilkRoad Technology.
At the heart of the Elevator Competition are two-minute elevator rides, which will be held Saturday morning at the Wachovia Center in downtown Winston Salem. There, tensions will mount as teams strive to make the perfect pitch about their original business ideas to judges, many of whom are real-life venture capitalists. Teams will vie for prizes via two competition tracks, Traditional Business and Social Entrepreneurship.
The competition’s free public event “Thoughts From a Serial Entrepreneur,” is a discussion with Bob Young, at 5 p.m. Friday evening at WFU’s Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. Young is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of lulu.com, an online publishing and printing company, and co-founder of noted technology company Red Hat Inc.
Stan Mandel, the Executive Professor & Director, Angell Center for Entrepreneurship at the Babcock Graduate School of Management, as well as the competition’s co-founder and faculty adviser, said that the competition remains as relevant today as it was when launched in 2000.
“The Elevator Competition has consistently evolved to meet the interest of students and the demands of society,” Mandel said. “We now focus on the rising interest in new ventures that address societal social causes – a real hot button of college students. And we continue to offer our traditional track for those interested in pursuing ventures in biosciences, nano technology, social networking and other domains.”
Diana Morse, an event co-chair and a second-year MBA student at WFU, said that teams with the best elevator pitches will proceed to make a 20-minute “board room” presentation on their business plans. The Traditional-track winning team will be awarded a cash prize of $10,000 and paid entry into the 2009 Global Moot Corp Competition, while the Social Entrepreneurship competition winner will receive $5,000. Also, about $65,000 worth of legal and marketing services will be split between the winners, Morse said.
In addition to three WFU teams, other participating universities are: Yale University; University of Illinois at Chicago; Rice University; University of Delaware; Brigham Young University (2); Illinois Institute of Technology; University of Cincinnati; Cornell University; University of Arkansas; College of Business, University of Louisville; University of Michigan (2); Carnegie Mellon University (2); Colorado State University (2); Johns Hopkins University; University of Virginia, Darden Graduate School of Business; Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management; Texas Christian University; Colorado State University; Baylor University; Kennesaw State University; Georgetown University; George Washington University; and Baruch College.
Competition events (see attached schedule) begin Friday evening with the public presentation featuring Bob Young. Saturday’s highlights include “pitch rounds,” followed by selection of finalists and 20-minute boardroom presentations. The competition will be capped off by a gala dinner and awards ceremony at the downtown Marriott Hotel.
Co-chair Morse said that the Elevator Competition further showcases WFU’s many assets and provides a valuable experience for all schools involved.
“It gives competing students a chance to shine and, hopefully, helps them launch their venture,” Morse said. “Especially with the economic slowdown, now is the time to find those ventures that will take hold and provide benefits to society, whether they be social or environmental, or through job creation.”
Jared Greer, a 2009 MBA candidate, said that he and three fellow team members from the University of Arkansas have been hard at work perfecting their pitch. Their company, Tears for Life, a medical diagnostic equipment company, is developing a test kit that screens for breast cancer using human tears.
“We’ve heard that the WFU Elevator Competition is one of the premier such opportunities,” Greer said. “We know that the competition will be stiff, but we feel we have some great experience in winning previous competitions,” Greer said. His team took first place overall in a 2009 pitching competition at the University of Cincinnati, and won a 60-second fast-pitch competition at the University of Louisville.
Greer said, “But, we’re also looking forward to getting feedback on our business plan that will help us reach our goals, as well as meeting the individuals at Wake Forest and the sponsors who have made this competition possible.”
The Elevator Competition requires that at least one degree-seeking student be enrolled in a college or university. They can be graduate or undergraduate students in any discipline. All participating teams are also required to submit an Executive Summary of their business plan.
Other event sponsors are Vino del Sol; Mullen; Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice; Piedmont Angel Network; Triad Commercial Property Management; Babcock Demon Incubator; and Market Perspectives Inc.
For more information, contact Sylvia Green at 336-758-3559 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.mba.wfu.edu/elevator.
NOTE: Members of the media — but not the general public — will have an opportunity to ride alongside participants in available elevators beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday morning, March 28th.