This year’s New Venture Competition by the Technology Management Program brought 20 new student-founded business startups to Corwin Pavilion yesterday evening for the New Venture Fair.

The New Venture Competition, which teams up students across disciplines to design their own business and compete for over $75,000 in prizes, began in November and culminates in May with the final round of competition. During last night’s event, teams showcased their ideas to a panel of judges, who will vote today to decide which six projects will advance to the final round.

According to TMP Director Bob York, a UCSB electrical and computer engineering professor, the New Venture Competition began with 64 teams and only 20 made it to the semifinal event last night.

“From here there will be six selected. Those six teams will get special attention from mentoring committees and really start to refine their public presentation, financials and business plan,” York said. “The cool thing about students here is they put in a lot of work. They attend seminars twice a week at 7:30 a.m. and come after hours and meet with a mentor, putting presentations together, making the product and building business plan financials.”

According to fourth-year computer science major Ashwin Singhania, whose smart phone application DejaLearn is designed to help students practice study material by automatically text messaging exercises at intervals based on a comprehension algorithm, the New Venture Competition has allowed him to watch his team’s idea expand into a complex product with the possibility of coming to fruition.

“When we started, the idea was a really simple vocabulary app. It wasn’t a very lucrative idea, but it’s been really cool watching it grow to something big,” Singhania said. “It’s consistently changed since we developed it, and it changes all the time. Who knows? We might have a light bulb moment tomorrow.”

According to TMP mentor Stephen Cooper, a UCSB alum and CEO of Skyler Technology, Chairman and CEO of Skyler Technology, Inc. launching a successful startup requires an immense amount of drive and a great deal of optimism balanced by a sense of financial feasibility.

“I’m watching for ideas that can change society, that have leaders that will listen to investors and show the energy and passion you need to do a startup,” Cooper said. “You have to be an optimist way beyond normal, and yet you have to have a certain reality about things, financially. Finding that kind of team with right product, it’s great, but more than anything it’s the people who make it.”

One startup featured in the myriad of New Venture Competition semi-finalists is Glow Away, a product that aims to eliminate alcohol flush reaction recurrent in much of the Asian population. Third-year biopsychology major and creator of Glow Away Debbie Gee said the idea is to develop a pill eliminating alcohol flush reaction and then get it FDA approved.

“Alcohol flush reaction affects 140 million people, so our market size is really big,” Gee said. “Since I have friends and family it’ll affect, it really hits close to home. Face redness, increased heart rate, headaches … these are the pains many Asian Americans face.”

According to York, the semifinal stage of the New Venture Competition allows students to test the strength of their elevator pitch, thus serving as a determining factor to whether or not they proceed to the final round.

“It’s really hard to get funding and giving pitches to investors. If you can’t convince somebody you’ve got a great idea, you’re not going to get money,” York said. “This is the networking part of the competition. Even if it’s not the greatest idea the ability to pitch it, to convince someone, is really what will distinguish them here.”

York said the New Venture Competition fosters largely useful skills and experiences in all TMP students, regardless of if they win or not.

“What we really hope to accomplish is to help students be more successful when they graduate. Some may win, and that’s great, but even if they don’t start a company, they’re going to successful and this is going to help them,” York said. “Maybe they’ll start a company three years from now, or five years from now. Either way, they’re going to be successful.”



A version of this article appeared on page 2 of the April 25th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus