Launched last year by the Lundquist College's Entrepreneurship Club, the inaugural Civil War Shark Tank was considered a success by all involved. An instant classic, the undergraduate venture competition featured six student startups—three from the University of Oregon and three from the school's traditional rival up the road in Corvallis.
This year's competition carried on the tradition—and kicked it up a few notches, too.
Whereas last year's event took place in a Lillis lecture hall, this year's competition was housed in the University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center's sleek Lee Barlow Giustina Ballroom. Even the method of choosing which team would present next saw a revamp: team names were hidden inside green and orange plastic eggs. After each team presented, they were instructed to pick an egg sporting the colors of their rival school.
The University of Oregon ventures were Fansource, an online service for music fans and concert promoters; Gymsei, a mobile app offering personal training for weight lifters and other gym enthusiasts; and Orchid Health, a rural healthcare startup that will soon open a clinic in Oakridge, Oregon.
Each undergraduate team had five minutes to pitch their idea and then spent eight minutes fielding questions from a judges" panel composed of some of the region's best-known entrepreneurs and startup aficionados.
The $1,000 grand prize went to Orchid Health. Oregon State University's Bosky—creators of a line of ecofriendly sunglasses and snow goggles—took second place and $500.
For Orchid Health, the Civil War win was the latest of a string of notable recognitions. In 2012, cofounders Oliver Alexander "14 and Orion Falvey "13 took second place in the inaugural Oregon Social Business Challenge competition. 2013 saw Falvey named 2013 Student Social Entrepreneur of the Year for his work on Orchid Health as well as his involvement with a nongovernmental organization in Cambodia. Earlier this year, Orchid Health received $70,000 from Lane County's Business Incentive program to purchase medical equipment.
This April, Alexander and Falvey won the Smartups Wild Card Pitch Competition and with it the opportunity to compete in the concept round of this year's Willamette Angel Conference, which takes place on May 8.
Plans are already afoot for next year's Civil War Shark Tank, which will take place on the Oregon State University campus in its new business school facility, currently under construction.
“We are really trying to encourage entrepreneurship. This way, we take our schools" traditional rivalry and use it for a friendly event that's not only fun but can potentially benefit the entire region," said Nathan Lillegard, program manager of the Lundquist Center of Entrepreneurship.