Earlier this spring JuniorBiz, LLC was chosen as 1 of the 16 teams (out of over 30 teams that applied) to participate in the 9th annual Venture Adventure Business Plan Competition. No CSU team had ever won and I was sure I was going to be the first… but I didn’t even make it out of the first round.
Why was losing a good experience for me?
Back to the morning of the competition, I was placed in the same track as the other team from CSU, Frontline. Only 1 team from each track would be selected to move on to the final round. Then all of the second place teams from each track would have to battle it out in an impromptu elevator pitch duel. So in the first round I would be directly competing with a team that sent their CEO to Washington D.C. with the intention of drawing up a governmental contract for their business; along with a team from Oklahoma State and a team from Boston University.
Track 1 was judged by 4 top-notch entrepreneurs from across Northern Colorado. Sue Carroll, owner and chef of Bones Du Jour LLC was the first judge. Joe Grim, a 19-year veteran of Hewlett-Packard was the second. Prue Kaley, owner of NorthernColoradoRentals.com was the third. Peter Olins, co-founder of the Northern Colorado Entrepreneurs Network was the final judge in my track. Thank you, to all of the judges for giving me great feedback.
After giving my 15-minute presentation and 10-minute Q&A session, I felt pretty good about my chances. The presentation went really well and the Q&A was a little choppy but I felt like I answered all of the judge’s questions. My fate was in their hands…
Later that evening, Alyssa Westfall (Venture Adventure Director) announced the finalists. And… Frontline was chosen as the winner of Track 1. (I tried to build suspense just in case you forgot that I didn’t make it!) However, after the 4 finalists were chosen, JuniorBiz was selected as 1 of the teams to compete in the elevator pitch duel. So in 90-seconds I gave it all I had as my last shot to get into the finals. That didn’t work in my favor either, or did it?
JuniorBiz didn’t make it into the final round but this gave me a chance to meet and interact with people from around the country who share my passion for entrepreneurship. I spent Friday night talking to and hanging out with teams from Bowling Green State University, Syracuse University and Oklahoma State University.
I first met Alex and Teddy, from Bowling Green, because Patrick Gill told me they were working on an idea that promotes financial education and planning for students, MEasy Financial. However, they entered into the competition as ChemWise; a company that collects, recycles and sells new and used laboratory chemicals and supplies commonly found in laboratories across the United States. This business had already generated over $20,000 in revenue since January.
Earlier that day I met Preeth, Mina, Choi and Neil, from Syracuse, while they were chillin’/waiting to compete. Their company, Food2Joules, is a sustainable nonprofit organization that strives to reduce carbon emissions and the dependence on landfills through the conversion of food waste to usable energy and by-products. This team seemed like they had known each other for years, yet they had only been working on their business idea for 2 months and had never even met each other before this semester. Preeth attributed this incredible team chemistry to Neil, their professor, requiring them to meet outside of school (in coffee shops, restaurants, etc.) to work on their business plan. This is a cool concept that I would like to implement in future team projects. The other half of their team was participating in a b-plan competition back in New York with a top prize of $40,000. Food2Joules made it to the final round in the other competition.
The third team from Oklahoma State, Jordan and Sean, were also in Track 1 and had been developing their idea for over 3 years. Luxom.com is a centralized business multiple listing network (BMLN) for the business merger and acquisition (M&A) industry. Yes, it is as confusing as it sounds; which ended up hurting their chances because in their presentation they had just 15 minutes to explain a complex concept and convince the judges that it was a viable business. Jordan and Sean already had $40,000 invested into their business to develop the beta version of their business.
I had a blast hanging out and learning from all 3 of these teams! After learning about the other teams that didn’t make it out of the first round, I didn’t feel as bad about JuniorBiz. I was competing with some legitimate teams and businesses from across the nation and wish them all the best of luck.
Early on Saturday morning I went to watch the last 5 teams compete in the final round of Venture Adventure. The results are:
1st Place and $5,000 – SolarCycle from University of Wisconsin-Madison
2nd Place and $2,500 – Elevate Medical from University of Arkansas
3rd Place and $1,250 – Hydrangle Systems from Johns Hopkins University
4th Place and $1,000 – NuLabel from Brown University
5th Place and $1,000 – Frontline from Colorado State University
I want to thank my parents, sister and grandparents for coming up to watch the competition. As well as all of the CSU students (and CSU Alumn, Diane) who spent their Friday afternoon watching me rant and rave about my business. Additionally, I would like to thank the Entrepreneurship Program at CSU taking me through the entrepreneurial process and organizing this event. Specifically, I would like to thank Tom Dean, Jeff Lewis, Peter Way, Burt Deines, Alyssa Westfall, Nick Galluzzo and Laura Grette. I really enjoyed it, thanks!
Overall the competition was pretty humbling for me. There are some incredibly talented students out there who are starting world-class businesses. There are people who are smarter than me and who work harder than me. Realizing this has been good for me and will make me work harder in the future.
Learning that less was worth more to me than $5,000 fueling my arrogance. At the same time, $5 Grand sure would have been nice…
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