Now in its 28th year, the University of Oregon’s New Venture Championship (NVC) has evolved from humble beginnings into one of the top business plan competitions in the world, with an applicant pool that averages more than 50 teams from top MBA programs around the world.
Formed in 1992, NVC began as a program designed to bring together business students from the University of Oregon and Portland State University (PSU). At that time, business plan competitions were still a novel idea.
The story goes that PSU agreed to make the trip to Eugene on the condition that they were guaranteed at least gas money. UO agreed, and to this day, every team that attends NVC (now held in Portland) receives a cash prize to recognize their efforts and accomplishments.
What began as a friendly intrastate rivalry in the name of sharing ideas soon flourished on a nationwide—and then international—scale. The event began attracting teams from schools such as the University of Arizona, the University of Georgia, and the University of Texas at Austin, among others.
Randy Swangard, the director of NVC at the time, introduced new elements to the competition format for which NVC would soon become well known—including the trade show, elevator pitch competition, and dedicated feedback rounds—allowing its participants to focus on learning rather than just competing.
When UT Austin brought together similar competitions under the umbrella of a program called MOOT Corp—now called the Venture Labs Investment Competition—NVC played a key role in its development. MOOT Corp held an annual world championship featuring the winning teams from its affiliated competitions.
In 2000, NVC made its mark as an international competition when teams from Scotland, Canada, and Colombia attended. Since then, competitors have traveled to NVC from as far away as Singapore and Hong Kong.
In 2001, the University of Manitoba’s LifeLink earned the top spot as the first international winner. Since then a total of seven winning teams hailed from schools outside the United States—five of them from Thailand. The result is even more impressive considering the teams from outside the United States are often presenting and responding to judges’ comments and feedback in their second (or third) language.
In addition to its diverse participants, NVC also brings together more than 100 members of the Oregon business community to serve as its judges. These industry leaders focus on helping teams learn and grow, providing valuable, real-world feedback and guidance at every level of the competition.
It’s this community support—including the deep commitment from its sponsors and donors—that enables NVC to continue showcasing Oregon’s unique approach to business.
NVC continues to evolve as student ideas—and the world overall—move rapidly into the next decade and beyond. The future is bright.
—Nathan Lillegard, Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship