Central Michigan University New Venture Competition is more than just a daylong business pitch event. The competition, which will result in more than $75,000 in startup capital awards, is the culmination of months of learning and collaboration by 22 teams and industry mentors to bring their innovations to life.
"It is incredible to see our students' passion for their business ideas or innovations and watch them grow as entrepreneurs throughout the New Venture process," said Bruce Marble, entrepreneur-in-residence in CMU's Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship and Department of Entrepreneurship. "Today, at least 14 ventures that launched because the entrepreneurs behind them competed in NVC are still in business or in further development."
This year, startup projects range from food businesses and smart phone applications to unmanned aerial vehicles and products for survivors of serious illnesses. While many teams include students from the College of Business Administration, business plans, technology and product designs are created by teams of students majoring in business and entrepreneurship, apparel design and merchandising, engineering, and more.
Each team works with an industry mentor to solve a problem or gap in services and products, refines their plan and creates a business pitch. Students are paired with mentors from CMU's faculty and alumni network, as well as a variety of industries and organizations including the CMU Research Corp. and Spectrum Health Innovations. Mentors meet with students and provide guidance as needed to make sure students have the support they need to develop a viable startup concept or new product.
Workshops are held periodically for several months leading up to the competition to give competitors advice on specific aspects of their concept and pitch development. Students also had the opportunity to meet with Dow Venture Capital — an investment arm of The Dow Chemical Company. The event gave students a chance to learn more about Dow Venture's work and the key aspects of a business pitch they look for when investing in new ventures. Teams also met one-on-one with representatives to receive personalized feedback on their business plan and pitch.
For corporate and industry mentors, the competition provides access to fresh ideas and perspectives that can lead to improved innovations that meet consumer demand or provide solutions to complex challenges.
"If we didn't partner with CMU, some of these innovations may take much longer to be developed, may not be developed in the same way or may not be created at all," said CMU alumnus Anthony Lazzaro. Lazzaro, a former New Venture Competition winner, now works for Spectrum Health Innovations and serves as a mentor to New Venture teams.
For CMU students, the experience of working with students from other programs and professionals in the field provides unique experiences and knowledge.
"This goes beyond what I've learned in the classroom. I didn't know anything about thermodynamics before I started, and now I'm helping develop a product based on it," said Allison Lynch, a mechanical engineering major from Weidman collaborating on an upcoming New Venture Competition project. "Working with the other students, I also have learned things about business I never would have known. I'll be able to take that knowledge with me when I graduate and start my career."
Bringing it all together on pitch day
In addition to prototypes developed by many teams pitching products, students must outline their anticipated revenue, target market, margins, operating expenses, earnings and cash flow. On competition day, students deliver a 10-minute pitch to explain their business; answer questions about the viability of their business, service or product; and persuade judges to fund their idea.
Teams are evaluated over the course of three rounds, with the final round determining the winners of awards. The top award winner will receive $30,000 in startup funds. In addition to awarding funds for best overall venture, teams compete for several other awards including best social venture, best technology venture, highest growth potential, best pitch, most impact on Michigan, best lifestyle venture and audience choice. Others awards are valued at up to $10,000.
The event takes place April 8 beginning at 8 a.m. in the Education and Human Services Building's French Auditorium. Rounds of competition are held in classrooms in the Education and Human Services Building. The day concludes with a keynote speaker and awards ceremony at 6:45 p.m. in McGuirk Arena. The bleachers of McGuirk Arena will be open to students, faculty, staff and others interested in listening to the keynote speaker and presentation of awards.
Stay up-to-date on the competition on Twitter or be part of the conversation with #cmichnvc2016.