Forbes Hypes Business Plan Competitions

Forbes has a nice online feature looking at 15 business plan competitions across the U.S. It looks like the Kauffman Foundation has some great data on these competitions and hopefully that is a database that is available to entrepreneurship researchers.

Last Thursday, during my introductory lecture in New Venture Creation, I discussed the great opportunities that University and College sponsored business plan contests offer to students interested in or determined to be entrepreneurs. From the article:

There’s more money than ever in these competitions. At last official count in 2006 the Kauffman Foundation identified 353 business plan contests at colleges and universities. The number may have doubled since then, says Fishback, based on early feedback gleaned from Kauffman’s recent purchase of a software company that helps facilitate and track these competitions. Continue reading “Forbes Hypes Business Plan Competitions”

Entrepreneurial Intensity at George Mason University

As the fall semester winds down, there has been a flurry of activity for me on the entrepreneurial front. As my course, New Venture Creation, came to a close, we held an in class business plan competition. Our 8 teams (5 members each) wrote business plans, and over the final two sessions presented 15-20 minutes pitches.

A variety of ideas were represented: from a premium day-care center offering unique, enriching after class programs (Tae Kwon Do / Piano Lessons / Languages) to an enhancement beverage startup targeting students, there were some great plans and strong pitches.

Two of the top teams were offered a spot in George Mason Universities School of Management’s 3rd Annual Dean’s Business Plan Competition on Friday December 11. In this competition, teams from various school’s and classes, compete for best business plan and best sustainable business idea.

The two teams representing my class did very well — earning 1st place, 3rd place, and the sustainability prize (the 1st place team). The top prize/sustainability prize winner was Breathe, the aforementioned enhancement beverage firm, and Rent-83, a graphing calculator rental startup targeting college students.

Finally, yesterday, I attended a great planning session for the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy that GMU holds each February. The academy is offered to aspiring entrepreneurs at GMU, other local colleges and schools, and local high schools.  Practical learnings and creative exercises are offered throughout the program and there are opportunities to network and ask specific questions about an idea or a startup.

It is exciting to be a small part of a growing, aggressive community of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship educators.

Sparkseed: Funding for College Social Entrepreneurs

Sparkseed.org is taking applications from 1st and 2nd year undergraduates interested in launching social ventures. The deadline is March 1, but the application is not too long, so if you have been thinking about something, take a shot. In addition to funding, participants received mentoring, training, and other support during the 2 year program.

This ‘micro’ model of financing social ventures is attractive in my mind and allows many new firms and social entrepreneurs a chance to test their assumptions and products/services.

Sparkseed.org itself is a hotbed of social innovators and they claim to have helped launch 23 social ventures thus far. In a way, this is like an Ashoka focusing on collegiate social entrepreneurs. Cool stuff. Check it out and get involved.

The Ideablob is Growing on Campus!

Its been awhile since we’ve checked into online startup community and contest organizer Ideablob.com. Turns out that campus entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the “idea” space provided by Advanta Corp at Ideablob.com.

Two Penn State students have won awards for their ideas — they were separate entrants in different months. Check out Aaron Fleishman and his developing world health care social venture idea and Matt Allison’s personal training software.

We have also learned about Ideablob Blob live events on campuses such as Belmont U and University of Pennsylvania. These are live action versions of Ideablob where people come up with innovative ideas on site and discuss. Sounds cool.

Social Entrepreneurship Policy in VA and LA

Marion and Greg Werkheiser, founders and operators of the Phoenix Project in VA came to my social entrepreneurship course and talked with us about the role of policy and policy makers in the growth of social entrepreneurship. They are doing amazing work in VA both with communities in need and through training scores of social entrepreneurs at Virginia Colleges and Universities.

In the course of our discussion, we learned that the only state with an office for social enterprising/entrepreneurship is Louisiana. The Louisiana Office of Social Entrepreneurship (LAOSE) is part of the Lt. Governor’s office. According to their site:

The mission of the Louisiana Office of Social Entrepreneurship is to advance social innovation by supporting the creation and growth of the most innovate, measurable and sustainable solutions to the social problems affecting Louisiana’s citizens. LAOSE, in partnership with the public, private, and non-profit sectors, is committed to providing meaningful capacity building around tenets of social entrepreneurship, creating credible portals for financial and in-kind resources, and supporting improvements to public policy that enhance social innovation.

A New Interview with Fred Smith of Fedex

Fred Smith, founder and CEO of Fedex, is a famous campus entrepreneur — having come up with the original idea for the company for a paper while an undergrad at Yale (our first interview post from May 2007  here).

Fred is a supporter of McCain, but more importantly is a brilliant guy. He is the featured weekend interview in the WSJ and it is well worth reading. Here are a few snippets from the piece by Stephen Moore:

Oh, the country is going to get through this and the financial markets will stabilize,” he assures me, but only after we go through a period of “trauma and readjustment.”

I ask him just what he means by “trauma.” He attributes the financial crisis to “the intersection of four long-term developments.” Reckless mortgage lending policies; high energy prices; mark-to-market accounting rules; and national policies that favor what he calls “the financial sector over the industrial sector.”

Later,

Mr. Smith ends our interview with a little sermon about what the U.S. must do to retain its global economic superpower status. “Many of our current policies are not conducive to continued economic leadership. We restrict immigration when we have thousands of highly educated people that want to come to the United States, and some of our greatest corporations [are] crying out that we don’t have the scientific talent that we need to develop the next generation of innovations and inventions . . .

“That’s where all wealth comes from . . . It’s not from the government. It’s from invention and entrepreneurship and innovation. And our policies promote a legal and regulatory system which impedes our ability to grow entrepreneurship. Lastly, if we want to make [America’s workers] wealthier we have to quit demonizing quote, big corporations.”

The entire article is worth reading as Smith clearly explains his views on economic growth, the role of government, and the tensions that currently exist in our economy and between various sectors if it.

Are You Part of the Dumbest Generation?

I am part of the much-maligned Generation X. After us came the Ys or Millenials. Now, an Emory Prof is wondering whether those Millenials, born between 1982 and 2000, are part of an ‘intellectually devoid generation’. The ASCD Blog takes a look at Prof. Mark Baurlein’s work, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young American’s and Jeopardizes Our Future.

I haven’t read the book but have begun to read the reviews on the author’s site and it looks to highlight many trends that we see around us and experiences that many of us have had in daily life since the rise of the internet and other forms of media. Here is a nice excerpt from that describes something I did with a print newspaper article today.

Elsewhere, Bauerlein also echoes Carr by citing a study of online reading habits which has discovered something called the “F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content.” This is the technique of reading horizontally across the first few lines of text, then halfway across for a few more, and finally vertically the rest of the way down the page. There can be few of us who do not feel a twinge of guilty recognition at this description. Busted! Continue reading “Are You Part of the Dumbest Generation?”

Frosh Project becomes Venture Funded Breakthrough — Wesleyan

I just learned about a great new firm called Unigo.com. It is an online college guidebook site full of information and reviews provided by current students. Brilliant right?

I received a nice intro letter from CEO/Founder Jordan Goldman and a link to a write up on Goldman/Unigo.com by Jonathan Dee in the NY Times Magazine. From the NY Times Mag:

The idea of letting students write, or at least contribute to, college guides is not brand new; in fact, the one significant modernization in the guidebook business in the last decade or so is the vogue for books that feature students’ contributions alongside those of objective “experts.” It is a vogue for which Goldman, despite his tender years, can already claim a fair amount of credit. He is the co-editor of “The Students’ Guide to Colleges,” a project he began freshman year in his dorm room at Wesleyan using nothing more than his own ingratiating manner and boundless energy to hire unpaid interns on 100 college campuses nationwide. They helped him to attract their fellow students’ attention to the long-form, essay-based survey Goldman then posted online, offering only the promise that the three best responses to these surveys would be chosen to represent the authors’ schools in print. By the time he graduated, the Penguin edition of “The Students’ Guide” was selling solidly, but the book’s success, as well as its limitations, got Goldman thinking about what might be wrought on a grander scale.

Goldman, like Fedex founder Fred Smith and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, discovered his opportunity while on campus, but took some time to put it all together and build a firm.

Moreover Goldman’s case is an example of how viable the campus as a market is and also that there is a lot of talent on campuses that can be deployed in a very cost effective manner to uncover an opp and build a firm (from low wage labor to well connected alumni).

Its obvious that this firm/idea can scale across higher ed (grad school, community colleges, prep courses, loan programs, 529 savings plans) and I’m excited to watch it grow.

ACE National Student Comp Calls for Entries — Canada

Check it out: “Students who also run their own businesses are now eligible to enter the 2009 National Student Entrepreneur Competition, operated by ACE and proudly presented by CIBC.

Nominations and self-nominations opened this week for the competition, which celebrates commitment and determination among student entrepreneurs.

The competition is open to full-time students at Canadian universities or colleges who run their own business.

Twelve provincial champions will be named in January 2009, earning the right to represent their province at one of three regional competitions held in Calgary, Halifax and Toronto.

Regional champions will then move on to the final round of competition next May in Toronto.

Each provincial champion will receive complimentary lodging and travel to attend their regional event. Regional champions will receive a $1,000 cash prize plus complimentary lodging and travel to the ACE National Exposition, and the national champion will receive a $10,000 cash prize.”

Here is the website for the competition.