UCSB’s Technology Management Program held the semifinals for its 12th annual New Venture Competition last night in Corwin Pavilion from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Twenty-one teams of undergraduate and graduate students exhibited their products and services — including synthetic red blood cells, an advanced Wi-Fi connection system and sellable natural gas — in competition for over $75,000 in awards and prestigious networking opportunities. Five teams will be selected to move forward to the final round of the competition, which will be held on May 11 in Corwin Pavilion. Finalists will be announced today by noon on tmp.ucsb.edu.

Local business executives and investors served as the event’s judges, ranking competitors on various criteria and investing $100,000 in ‘TMP dollars’ to indicate the projects they found most promising.

TMP External Program Manager Bill Grant said the competition allows students to publicize their ideas and forge connections with prominent business leaders.

“They’re able to face the challenge of talking to business figures and investors that will make them able to gain the confidence and networking to move forward,” Grant said.

The 2007 NVC winners Christian Smith and Davis Brimer, co-founders of Active Life Scientific, Inc., participated as judges in the event. According to Brimer, TMP provided them with the skills and funding to support their proposal and enter the professional world.

“It essentially gave us our jump-start and made us better equipped to start the company right out of school,” Brimer said. “TMP is where I learned most of my practical skills for what I do now.”

Mentors such as UCSB alumnus and former NVC competitor Zhen Tian, who flew from Beijing to participate as an event judge, traveled from around the world to help competing teams organize their business strategies. Many investors and mentors commented on the amplified level of competition in this year’s contest, including 2009 NVC winner and co-founder of Phone Halo, Christian Smith.

“It’s definitely nice to see that the bar’s been raised, in terms of how market-ready and well thought-out these ideas are,” Smith said. “More people have products as opposed to just an idea.”

Athenaeum Capital Partners venture capitalist and event judge John Glanville said the increasingly competitive atmosphere among participants reflects improvements within the competition itself.

“I was talking to one of the other investors and we were both in just awe of how much the bar’s been raised,” Glanville said. “It shows an overall maturation in the program that wasn’t here years ago.”

Fourth-year economics and accounting major Devon Morrison said he has already received investment offers for his team’s proposal, a mobile time clock that allows employees to clock in for shifts from smartphones and other Internet-accessing mobile devices.

“We did surveys with companies that showed they were losing $1,000 per year per employee from late clock-ins,” Morrison said. “We found that if we digitalize the system and make it easier for companies to access, then we can make it so money flows directly into their payrolls.”

Fourth-year business economics and political science major Ryan Baird said his team developed its pitch to sell high-speed internet access to medium-sized companies and universities after four years of research in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Dept. According to Baird, the hard work has paid off, and the team is optimistic about its prospects in the competition.

“We’ll just say we’re hopefully confident,” Baird said.