Already recognized as one of the top three business plan competitions in the country by Business Week, the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship's (LCE's) New Venture Championship (NVC) by all accounts outdid itself this year. With teams from Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Stanford University, University of Michigan, University of Oregon, University of Washington, and Yale, the argument could be made that NVC, which took place April 13-15 in Portland, has become one of the world's premiere business plan competitions.
"NVC makes other competitions seem like a walk in the park with Mary Poppins," said Songpathara Snidvongs, a member of the Mahidol University team that won first place and $25,000. Pat Dickson, faculty adviser for the Georgia Institute of Technology team agreed: "This year's NVC is by far the strongest group of teams that I have seen anywhere at any of the competitions in a long time."
LCE Director Randy Swangard, who oversees NVC, noted that the feedback and guidance from judges, consisting of venture capitalists and business leaders from the Northwest and beyond, is one of the major reasons for the competition's success in attracting top-quality teams. And universally, participants agreed with that assessment. "The judges' feedback was very high quality and very customized. They provided information that will help with our business not just our business plan. We didn't get that at any other competition," explained University of Manitoba M.B.A. student Miriam Waldma.
More than 50 judges, many of them returning year after year, volunteered their time to evaluate the student business plans at NVC. What keeps this devoted group of judges coming back is the zeal and enthusiasm of the students. "These students have a lot of passion for their ideas. It's very invigorating to watch them present. They bring a freshness, an unbridled passion that is exciting," noted longtime judge Keith Larson, who manages Intel's minority equity investments in the manufacturing and digital health sector.
But it's not just the students' passion and judges' feedback that make NVC successful. "NVC has now become a legitimate feeder farm for venture capitalists and investors," offered Larson. In fact, several previous NVC winners have formed viable businesses, including last year's first place (A-Gro Solutions) and third place (Perpetua) teams. Larson and several other judges also noted that several business plans this year piqued their interest.
Altogether, Swangard said that the convergence of entrepreneurial energy-solid venture plans, great student entrepreneurs, and dedicated judges-make NVC a truly unique and rewarding learning experience reflective of the Lundquist College of Business as a whole. As the college's Dean James Bean elaborated, "NVC is an extension of the education mission of the Lundquist College . . . not only improving business plans for our students but for those around the world, making a lasting impact on the global economy."