Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose founding contribution helped establish the New Venture Competition, discussed his entrepreneurship success during the keynote address.
By Briahnna Brown
Have you ever gone to a popular restaurant on a Friday night only to be met with extremely long wait times? Well, the next new venture, Time Table, plans to fix that.
The grand prize winners of the 10th annual New Venture Competition at the George Washington University aim to redefine the dining experience as we know it by streamlining the wait-list process with a chatbot in the Facebook messenger app.
The team of Jonas Majauskas and Jason Korneich, seniors in the School of Business, and their business partner, Giuliano Senese, explained during the competition’s finals on Thursday night that they calculate wait times in real time so you’re no longer told to wait 20 minutes for a real wait time of 40 minutes. The chatbot will add users to partner restaurants’ waitlists through the messenger app rather than users having to call or show up to be added to the list.
"In essence, what we're doing is replacing these buzzer systems or the outdated pen and paper system,” Mr. Majauskas explained. “There's no need to have that initial interaction with the host or the restaurant. It’s all done through Facebook messenger.”
The team behind Time Table took home the $25,000 grand prize, as well as prizes for Best Tech Venture and Best Undergrad Venture.
They were one of nine teams competing in the New Venture Competition finals for $330,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, explained Jim Chung, associate vice president for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at GW. In its 10-year history, the competition has awarded over $1.5 million in prizes. This year’s competition had 137 teams at the beginning, the second-highest in the competition’s history.
President Thomas J. LeBlanc said it was not surprising that the competition has grown to become one of the top collegiate entrepreneurship competitions in the country given the impressive presentations the competition showcases each year.
“Our university’s innovation and entrepreneurship efforts play a critical role in creating an environment where our students, faculty and staff can collaborate, solve problems and—of course—turn a great idea into the next big startup venture,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “This competition is one of the most significant ways we provide these important opportunities.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) discussed his own entrepreneurial successes during the competiton's keynote address.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said during his keynote address that 10 years ago he and his wife, Ann Scott, wanted to help GW with a program they believed in because of the great experience their daughter, Allison Scott Guimard, had while studying at the GWSB. So, they made a founding contribution and 10-year pledge to the New Venture Competition.
Mr. Scott also discussed some of his own business ventures, like manufacturing, pharmacy chains and urgent care and hospital companies. Along the way, he explained, he learned a lot about building a successful business, but the best part of the process has been all the people involved.
"You get to meet these unbelievably wonderful people that you get to work with and as you develop a team and the comradery of putting something together and then busting your rear to try and figure out if it works,” Mr. Scott said. “It's so much fun to try to do that."
The competition’s second-place winners were Jelena Jeremic, a graduate student in GWSB, and her business partner, Katya Vert, the team behind Nostopharma, a company that developed a medical treatment to prevent pathologic bone growth that can occur after trauma or severe burns. They also won the prize for Best Women’s Venture.
The Wandering Raven, an e-learning platform that aims to teach children in India creative writing skills through animated videos, was the third-place winner. It was created by Trishanya Raju, a student in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, along with her business partner, Mayank Mathur. They also won the prize for Best International Social Venture.
Fourth place went to Sassy Pants, which aims to empower women through innovative and customizable athletic apparel. The team behind the brand is Elizabeth Terry in GWSB and Erin Oliphant in the Colombian College of Arts and Sciences, along with their partners Nancy Calderone and Tamara Wurst.
The Audience Choice Award went to Bendt, a platform where users can trade professional athletes’ future career earnings like stocks.
All other finalists were granted runner-up prizes and in-kind prizes such as memberships to workspaces.
Last year’s Audience Choice Award winner, Danya Sherman, shared a message with the entrepreneurs in the competition about the importance of perseverance and ignoring the naysayers.
Founder and CEO of KnoNap, a napkin that can detect commonly-used date rape drugs, and a junior studying international affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs, Ms. Sherman said her competitive nature propelled her to compete in several pitch competitions over the year. She was recently named one of Toyota’s 2018 Mothers of Invention.
She stressed that during the development stages of any company, the product will change but staying true to the company’s mission will go a long way in ensuring success.
"It doesn't matter what obstacles are put in front of you or what someone says about your company,” she said. “It's what you have in your heart. You are the only person that's able to determine the success of your company."