When Randy Swangard judged the first New Venture Championship business plan competition in 1991, three teams battled for $300 in prize money, with the stipulation that the team from Portland State University had to win enough to pay for gas to Eugene and back.
Fourteen years later, Swangard is director of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship (LCE) and oversees a New Venture Championship that has become one of the elite business plan competitions in the world. Just last month Swangard and LCE staff hosted top business school teams from around the United States, Canada, and the world, including Thammasat University of Thailand, representing the Pacific Rim.
Held now in Portland, this year's New Venture Championship featured 20 teams, selected from more than 55 interested entries, competing for nearly $65,000 in cash awards over three days of intense, rewarding, and educational experiences.
"We have schools from around the world literally kicking our door down to get into the competition. We've gone from a four-hour morning session to a three-day event. We've added dedicated key sponsors such as Columbia Sportswear, Aequitas Capital Management, Intel, and Tektronix. And the value the competition delivers is phenomenal," Swangard said.
The event culminates a year of planning by LCE staff members, who are already working on making the 2006 competition even better. But the work is worth it, not only for the revenue it generates but also for its contribution to the experience of participants and to the reputation of the center, the Lundquist College of Business, and the University of Oregon.
The stellar reputation of the New Venture Championship stems from its emphasis on education and learning. Event organizers work to ensure that students receive extensive written and verbal feedback from the nearly 60 judges, who are top professionals in the entrepreneurial world, service professions, and the investment community.
While Business Week magazine ranks the competition in the top three worldwide, LCE staff members aren't content to rest on their laurels. And they are looking east--the Far East--for inspiration. Impressed with the quality of venture teams after traveling to the Asia Moot Corp. event in Bangkok in March, Swangard would like to attract more Asian schools and make the New Venture Championship a Pacific Rim destination.
"What if we could bring together the best teams from Asia and North America at one of the best competitions anywhere? Now that's global business. It'd be awesome! That's the dream," Swangard said.