Each year during the winter and spring terms, the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship sends graduate student venture teams out into the world to compete against their peers on the investment competition circuit.
For some of our MBAs, this is a crucial step in transforming their ideas into viable businesses. Others take what they've learned and apply it to new startups. For just about everyone who participates, the experience has the power to shape future careers.
Chris Watkins, MBA '14, is working with three other MBA students to launch a specialty hat business this fall. Watkins came up with the idea not long after he pitched Huburb, a concept for well-designed homes in micro-neighborhoods, at the regional finals of Net Impact's Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge. Details are still under wraps, but look for some distinctive, hybrid headgear on Duck fans this fall.
Lindsey Arkfeld, MBA '14; Alec Hankins, JD '14; and Derek Schloss, JD/MBA '14, first encountered early childhood education app Nemies last summer, when they participated in the University of Oregon's Technology Entrepreneurship Program (TEP).
After assessing the app's business feasibility, the team took it through the Oregon MBA's Venture Launch Pathway and competed at the Mai Bangkok Business Challenge and the University of Texas–Austin's Global Venture Labs Investment Competition.
The team's commitment to the app—originally developed by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University—won't stop after graduation. They are currently working through the steps to launch the app as a business by the end of this year.
Arkfeld, who describes her time on the investment competition circuit as the highlight of her MBA experience, is quick to identify the ways she's benefited from her work with the nascent startup.
“Nemies has given me the framework to apply to starting any type of business. I've also been exposed to things—like intellectual property and game development—that are outside of my comfort zone and level of expertise," she said.
Business students aren't the only ones to benefit from the Lundquist College's entrepreneurial training—and they certainly aren't the only ones to be bitten by the startup bug.
After completing his master's degree in molecular biology, David Youngentob, MS '13, assumed he'd pursue a career in pure science. But his ambitions took an unexpected swerve after he took CYANO Solutions" innovative tweak to chemotherapy drugs through TEP, the Venture Launch Pathway, and on to the University of Louisville Cardinal Challenge and a lightning round victory at UO's own New Venture Championship.
Thanks to this yearlong immersion in the world of startups, Youngentob has found an exhilarating new way to use his scientific training.
“Scientists come up with really cool stuff all the time, but most scientists are not capable of discovering a customer for it," said Youngentob. “It takes the nonscience minds to discover if there's a product there."
For Youngentob, there's no doubt that the capabilities and skills he's learned have unlocked a world of exciting new opportunities.
“I feel like the world is just blown wide open in terms of being an entrepreneur, either spearheading an entrepreneurial effort of my own or being a part of something with wind under its wings," said Youngentob.