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April 21, 2014
Aspiring entrepreneurs participated in the ultimate test run Friday, April 18, pitching their business ideas to real world investors during Northwest Missouri State University’s third annual New Venture Pitch Competition.
Thirty-eight teams registered for this year’s contest with 10 of them based at Northwest. The contest, which was free to enter, was open to college students as well as high school students and members of the community. In the end, four teams – including two comprised of Northwest students – walked away with prizes.
Motavera, a team of Truman State University students, earned the grand prize for their pitch about an online platform, similar to LinkedIn, designed to connect students with small to mid-sized for the purposes of internships, employment and freelance work. MontaVera consisted of Dustin Staashelm, Phil Kegode, and Nep Orshiso, all of Maryville, and Andrew Estes of Kirksville.
As the overall winner, Motavera received prizes valued at nearly $12,000, including a six-month lease at Northwest’s Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, legal intellectual property services from Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP, and legal startup services from Polsinelli, PC.
With teams participating in one of two competition tracks, Motavera won its track and received $2,300 toward the startup of its new venture in addition to its grand prize. Second-place teams in each track received $500.
CornSoyWater, the pitch of University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Chengchou Han placed second place in its contest track. Han’s pitch involved a web application that provides real-time data to help corn and soybean farmers determine when to irrigate their fields.
Hera Measuring Company, LLC – a team comprised of Northwest students Ashley McGinnis, Devon O’Kane, Andrew Chor and Darren Adams – took first place in the second competition track with its laser-based measuring device.
Everyday Joe – a team comprised of Northwest students Solenice Anderson, Donnie Merriman, Chrisi Nance and Emily Bowman – took second place in its track. Dubbed the next revolution in the coffee industry, Everyday Joe incorporated a mobile application that, when used with a compatible coffee maker, could allow its user to begin brewing a cup of coffee virtually from any location.
The New Venture Pitch Competition is designed to provide students and entrepreneurs the opportunity to present ideas to professionals, small business owners and potential investors. It also gives students the chance to network with business professionals and gain presentation experience.
“For those interested in becoming an entrepreneur, this gives them great insights into what the process is of going out, meeting with investors, trying to make these types of presentations and learning about the kinds of things investors will ask before they would become involved in a business,” said Dr. Ben Blackford, assistant professor of management at Northwest and coordinator of the annual competition. “For students who maybe go through this process and realize they don’t want to be an entrepreneur, that information itself is valuable. On top of that, the value comes from making these types of presentations. Maybe after they graduate the presentations will be on a different topic, but the judges who join us represent the people who will be their clients and their bosses.”
Said O’Kane, “It’s a great opportunity that Northwest makes available to us. It’s one of the reasons I chose to come to Northwest because of the different opportunities like this that you might not get at other universities.”
The competition format consisted of three rounds for each track. During the first round, teams gave a one-minute elevator pitch about their idea to a panel of judges. In the second round, teams set up a booth presenting their business idea. The judges then visited the booths of the teams that impressed them during elevator pitches for more information.
The top four teams were then selected to pitch their business ideas during a final round, and judges selected a winner for each track. During the final round, teams had 10 minutes to present their business ideas, followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers.
Judges ranked teams on the effectiveness and persuasiveness of their presentations, the innovativeness and quality of their ideas, the competitive advantage of their proposed businesses, effective discussion of financials and proposed management teams. Ultimately, judges based their final decisions on how likely they would be to invest their own money in the proposals.
Team members of the Hera Measuring Company were inspired by an experience McGinnis had as she arrived home one evening. As she began to prepare a meal, she became annoyed by the number measuring cups she needed and wished she had a single device to ease the baking process.
Hera Measuring Company’s product pitch involved an adjustable, laser-equipped measuring device that could attach to any cup or bowl. The device would be designed to measure the ingredient as it passes through the laser.
“The competition was a lot more fierce than I anticipated,” McGinnis said. “The judges asked a lot of questions, but we did a good job of thinking quickly on our feet. You have to know your financials, and you have to be a very well-rounded, business-oriented person to succeed in this type of competition.”
Entrepreneur and 1976 Northwest alumnus Carl Hughes, was the keynote speaker at this year’s competition. In 1996, Hughes and a small group of propane industry professionals co-founded Inergy, LP, and grew it to become the fourth largest propane marketer in the country. Last year, Inergy merged its natural gas business with Crestwood, LP, and Hughes retired.
During his remarks, Hughes, a first-generation college student, described why he chose to attend Northwest and offered some insights to how he chooses to invest in companies.
“My parents gave me a very good work ethic and good values,” Hughes said. “I had to figure out the rest on my own, and Northwest was a good place to do it.”
Funding for the contest and prizes was made possible with the help of sponsors, including the Melvin D. and Valorie G. Booth Endowment Fund; KCP&L; Husch Blackwell; Spencer, Fane, Britt & Browne; Polsinelli, PC; and Palo Alto Software.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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