Sharanya Lal, president of the University of Richmond's Entrepreneurship Club, and Professor Jeff Pollack, the club's faculty adviser, say students should participate in the 2012 Undergraduate Business Pitch Competition because it is a unique learning opportunity within a high stakes environment.
Student entrepreneurs will have the chance to win $3,500 in cash and pitch their business idea to local investors during the contest, which starts April 9.
Groups or individual students will have 10 minutes to pitch their business idea to a group of business school professors and five minutes to answer questions during the first round, Pollack said. Five of the entrants will move into the second round on April 16. In the second round, the students also have 10 minutes to pitch their idea and five minutes to answer the questions of local investors and entrepreneurs. Three winners will be picked after the second round.
Approximately 35 business ideas have already been submitted, Pollack said, but students can enter the contest until March 26.
The competition is different from any class project because it creates a realistic environment where money is on the line, Pollack said.
Lal wrote in an email, "[Entrepreneurship Club takes] this very seriously, and year after year the Business Pitch Competition attracts highly determined individuals looking to take their first steps toward becoming entrepreneurs.
"If you're looking to become a successful entrepreneur, the Business Pitch Competition is an excellent start," he wrote.
Three prizes are given to the winning teams: first place is $3,500 and a chance to present the idea to local angel investors, people who provide money for a business to start up. Second place is a prize of $1,000 and third place is a prize of $500. Winners are chosen based on concept, clarity, comprehensiveness, realistic implementation potential and potential value, according to the competition overview provided by the Entrepreneurship Club. Students may use their cash prizes freely, Lal said.
Pollack said the key component the judges would look for in the first round was how the business would address a problem that people actually had. In the second round, the judges would also focus on the need for the business, but would take into consideration how much and how quickly the business could grow, he said.
The competition can result in the creation of real businesses, Lal wrote. "Several previous contestants reinvested in their respective companies and some of these companies are still functioning."
Some of the winners in past years have pitched companies that specialized in wireless leash technology, website marketing and musical e-readers, Pollack said. Many students, especially contest winners, do pursue the businesses after the contest, he said.
"I think [the contest] speaks to the experiential nature of what we do [at Richmond]," he said.
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"What we do is not just meant to stay in the class; what we do and how we interact with students is meant to be taken outside of the classroom, whether it's a competition, whether it's a job, whether it's an interview or whether it's anything."
Contact reporter Chrissy Wengloski at Christina.Wengloski@richmond.edu
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