I attended the 7th Annual Cupid’s Cup Business Competition and watched as 5 teams pitched their businesses. Reed Street Productions, a Zombie race event company (see the video of their pitch below) has booked over $3 million in revenue in less than 2 years. (It must be noted that Cupid’s Cup is a BUSINESS COMPETITION, not a BUSINESS PLAN COMPETITION — all competitors have operating firms — yes their revenues, development, profits, etc can vary widely)
Kevin Plank, Under Armour founder and CEO, underwrites the competition (it is named after the campus flower delivery service he created while an undergrad, walk on football player in College Park) and this year featured Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, UMD President Loh, and some other great visitors. Past winners and participants such as My Fridge Rental, Crooked Monkey, and North Star Games were present. The real participation of alumni entrepreneurs appears to be one of the strengths of University of Maryland, the Smith School of Business, and the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
Over 600 people were there as Reed Street Productions, the Zombie race company (Run for Your Life!), gave a great pitch — including astounding sales, cash flow, and strategy results and exciting multimedia. They took home the $17,500 first prize and also won the audience choice award. (watch their pitch below)
The University of Maryland at College Park is one of the case studies I am producing as part of my research. Here is a press release from the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship:
The end of 2011 marked the close of an active year for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and its Dingman Center Angels investor network. In the past year, members invested in eight regional companies, making 2011 the network’s most active year since its founding in 2004. Investments included Brazen Careerist, CirrusWorks, Nexercise, SevaCall, Spinnakr, Spotflux, Veenome, and YouEye.
“Dingman Center Angels’ investment activity pipeline of high quality companies and growth in membership illustrates the renaissance of entrepreneurial activity and investment in this region,” said Elana Fine, Dingman Center’s director of venture investments. “This past year, our angels invested in innovative companies, including Veenome and SevaCall, that understand their target customer and have developed clear and thoughtful go-to-market strategies.”
via Record Year for University of Maryland’s Dingman Center Angels.
I am continuing to validate the student entrepreneurs, firms, and university and other data in my database of high impact firms created by students. Here is one of my favorites, Insomnia Cookies, founded at the University of Pennsylvania. CEO and cofounder Seth Berkowitz is featured in this great 5 minute interview from an Inc Magazine 30 Under 30 feature from 2007. From Inc Magazine:
30 Under 30: The Cookie King | Inc.com.
One of the cases that I am completing is of the University of Chicago. Perhaps the most prominent venture out of the University of Chicago in recent years is Groupon. Another great success out of the Booth School of Business is Bump Technologies.
Two of the founders, David Lieb and Jake Mintz, conceived of the initial idea while in a first year accounting class and eventually won the school’s 2009 New Venture Challenge. Below is an interview with Lieb via Tech Crunch.
(Founder Stories) Bump’s David Lieb On Getting To 60 Million Downloads | TechCrunch.
One element of my research is the construction of a database of high impact firms that were created by students. I am currently going through the database to fill in gaps and validate that various firms fit the definition of high impact. One of the firms is Plaxo. I came across this interview with Plaxo Co-Founder Todd Masonis. Mr. Masonis and Cameron Ring are described as Stanford Engineers in early Plaxo press releases and media. The interview with Todd Masonis:
2) I understand that Plaxo is the third company you have founded. Can I ask, what motivated you to get into business, to become an Entrepreneur and how old were you when you founded your first business?
I had always been interested in starting a company — and going to Stanford in the late nineties accelerated that idea. At that time (during the bubble), everyone was trying to start a company or dream up start-up ideas. So for my first company, some friends and I started it over one summer between Freshman and Sophomore year of college. I was about 18 years old then. We built a product, launched, it got users, got some press, and got some great experience. Eventually we decided to kill it and go back to school, but the experience was incredibly valuable for when we started Plaxo.
7) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
I think the hardest part is just starting. There are a million reasons why an idea won’t work or insurmountable obstacles you could imagine. However, I think you just need to jump in and start. In the worst case, you will fail and learn from that and try again. So if you have an idea or passion, you should just do it.
via Todd Masonis Interview.
I am finalizing a chapter for an edited volume on Universities and Knowledge Creation that Springer has agreed to publish on some contingency basis. The main thrust of my paper is the disconnect between the organization centric design of most university knowledge commercialization efforts (TTO, patents, science/industrial parks, etc.) and an economy where individuals (entrepreneurs, scientists, creative class, knowledge workers) are key economic assets and levers. From the forthcoming chapter (working title of chapter: Backing the Wrong Horse? University Knowledge Commercialization in an Entrepreneurial Age):
From the founding of Harvard through World War II, the greatest advances in higher education effectiveness (and subsequent demand) were made when leaders such as Jefferson, Van Hise, and Harper focused on individuals and providing value to individuals and institutions in their immediate regions. Undergraduates had freedom in classes and extra-curricular activities and graduate students in sciences and professional schools were afforded opportunities to chart their own paths. Building institutions and structures, at the undergraduate, research, and regional levels made higher education directly relevant to citizens and regional leaders (Rudolph 1990; Cole 2009). World War II and Vannevar Bush changed all that with central planning and resource control for the achievement of national, not regional and local initiatives.
Still working on this chapter and looking forward to sharing the entire piece. The field (regional economic analysis) that this compilation is not necessarily my field, but its an important area when it comes to entrepreneurship policy.
[BTW, this Research Sample category is something I plan on making a weekly feature in 2012. In 2012 the research samples will come directly from my dissertation research. For a bit more about this effort check here.]