Friday is the last day students can register for the UCSB Technology Management Program’s 13th annual New Venture Competition for students to showcase entrepreneurial ideas and inventions for a chance to win over $75,000 in various prizes and business opportunities.
Participants meet for biweekly workshops and seminars with local businessmen and other experienced mentors over five months to discuss financial instruction, business models and marketing techniques. Each team develops its own product or company idea to present before a board of judges, who will select teams to move on to the semifinals on March 22 and finals on May 9.
TMP Director Bob York, an electrical and computer engineering professor, said the contest develops students’ ideas into concrete final products.
“The whole process is really rewarding,” York said. “To see the students start with the germ of an idea [and] then to see the teams come together and to hear their final presentation and how polished they are — that’s a very rewarding experience.”
Students can compete individually or in teams of up to five people. The competition is open to all grades and majors.
According to TMP Program Manager Michael Panesis, the wide range of student participants reflects the event’s ability to provide the tools and skills necessary for door-opening entrepreneurial aspirations.
“What’s at the heart of the Venture Competition is that feeling that anybody can do this,” Panesis said. “You don’t need to be an entrepreneur.”
Past years’ participants have launched a number of successful startups such as 2010 winners Active Life Scientific — who developed and marketed a device to measure bone density — and the competition’s first winner Inogen, which constructed a portable oxygen concentrator for individuals on oxygen therapy.
Third-year biology major Sultan Majid, who will compete in a group with four other teammates, said working alongside established Santa Barbara entrepreneurs and venture capitalists opens up networking opportunities otherwise unavailable to students.
“It’s really just an invaluable experience,” Majid said. “You get to learn what type of things investors are looking at when you’re talking to them and you get a lot of tools in your bag. [I look forward to] having people draw their own conclusions instead of telling them what to draw.”
Majid and his team are developing an electric go-kart franchise called SF Racing, which aims to reduce the hobby’s carbon footprint.
Third-year biopsychology major Nicolai Safai, Majid’s teammate, said the group is integrating multiple green innovations to make the carts as environmentally friendly as possible.
“[Our model] is electric, but it’s also important to us to [use] alternative energy,” Safai said. “We’re going to power as much as we can with solar panels and maybe wind turbines.”
The competition’s ‘premortem’ period allows the teams to scrutinize their business plans with TMP mentors for potential flaws, according to Safai.
“More than anything, I want to figure out from these guys where we’re most likely to fail,” Safai said. “Even a good idea can fail.”
Panesis said many students use the leadership skills and entrepreneurial advice acquired during the contest to launch their business models and products professionally.
“Many of [the participants] are very serious about starting a business with their NVC entry,” Panesis said. “[Their pitch] is something they fully intend to make a business out of.”
This year’s contest will feature a new $2,500 ‘People’s Choice’ award determined using audience votes sent via text message.
York said the business skills and networking opportunities provide an engaging and interactive educational experience.
“I think it’s one of the most important experiential elements that we have here at UC Santa Barbara — and one of the most grueling ones,” York said. “I think that every student who has participated will say it’s been one of the most valuable experiences they’ve had [at UCSB].”
Visit www.tmp.ucsb.edu/nvc/ for a complete timeline of events and more information about the competition.