By Brittney Dunkins
George Washington University students and faculty channeled their entrepreneurial spirit through short challenges at the GW Business Plan Competition kickoff event held in Duques Hall and received an introduction to the 2014 program last Wednesday.
Florida Gov. Richard Scott (R) and his wife Annette founded the annual Business Plan Competition to offer student, faculty and alumni entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop their business ventures through a series of workshops and events with the support of GW. Each team will compete for more than $90,000 in prizes.
In addition to first-, second- and third-place prizes, awards will be given out in categories including “Best Undergraduate,” “Older-Adult Focused Innovation,” “Best Sustainable Technology” and “Audience Choice.”
For the first time the Business Plan Competition will be offering a semester-long series of lean start-up workshops, a methodology emphasizing customer development interviews to improve the business’s ability to meet customer’s needs.
“We are one of five lean start-up centers in the country selected by the National Science Foundation, and that approach will inform much of our curriculum,” Office of Entrepreneurship Executive Director Jim Chung said.
The lean start-up workshops will begin on Sept. 13 and students will be able to access the content online through Udacity.com.
“I’m expecting big things this year – big ideas from the teams that will have a real impact in the world and more support for developing these ideas into solid business models through further incorporating the lean start-up approach in our workshops,” Mr. Chung said.
Mr. Chung also announced the incorporation of a “social entrepreneurship” track spearheaded by GW Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service Coordinator for Social Entrepreneurship Melanie Fedri.
More details on the social entrepreneurship programming will be announced later this month.
Founding Director of the GW Business Plan Competition John Rollins also announced that funding for prizes has increased to more than $90,000 from more than $60,000 last year.
He also explained the building blocks of a winning team and rules of the competition, including the requirements of each round, the mentorship process, workshop series and final competition.
“The first thing you need is a terrific idea,” Mr. Rollins said.
The AARP Foundation, a competition sponsor, will once again offer prize money for a business in the “Older-Adult Focused Innovation” category.
Patrick Landers, manager of strategy at AARP Foundation, offered insight into the vital role of entrepreneurship and what AARP looks for in a winning team.
“We need entrepreneurs to change what we can do with finite resources,” Mr. Landers said. “What we are trying to do with the AARP Foundation prize is to find entrepreneurs who will improve the lives of seniors.”
Dylan Fox, B.A.’13, founder and CEO of Crowdvance.com, an interactive fundraising website, placed third in the 2012 competition
He urged students to use the competition to hone their entrepreneurial skills and said that he used this experience to treat his company, as “more than a student project.”
Last year, Mr. Fox’s company went on to win first place in an international business plan competition at Texas Christian University and has since worked with Best Buy, Hulu and other major corporations.
“For those of you that have ideas that you think can be really big, the Business Plan Competition, no matter how far you make it, can be the boost of motivation that allows you to think seriously about your ideas so that you can fully commit to them,” Mr. Fox said.
Following the speeches, the students were given a chance to solve business problems and present their ideas to a team of judges. Students Lisette Garcia, Lulu Garcia, Suhail Karim Beg and Xie Yuchen were on the winning team, Mobile Farmer’s Market. Each received a copy of “The Startup Owner’s Manual” by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.