New Venture Championship from Behind the Scenes

This past weekend I had the honor of being a moderator at the New Venture Championship (NVC) in Portland which is an international entrepreneurial investment competition presented annually by the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business. The 16 selected student teams from around the world pitched their business plans to a panel of judges, gained valuable feedback, and had the chance to win over $60,000 in cash prizes.

Day 1duck

The first session teams practiced their 60 second elevator pitches and received feedback from the judges. The second portion consisted of 30 minute presentations during which a judge could interrupt at any time. Judges challenged teams to defend their plans and their ability to move a pitch along, simulating a meeting at a busy VC firm. The first day was not scored, however, timing was critical because it was my job as moderator to stop them at exactly 30 minutes – no exceptions. Teams were meant to take the judges’ feedback from Day 1 to prepare for Day 2.

That evening, the teams competed in a tradeshow and elevator pitch competition. Not only was this a great opportunity to network with students, judges, and guests, but it was a chance to learn how to effectively talk about a business idea (and to get an unexpected photo-op with the Duck).

Day 2

The second day we welcomed a new set of judges for the semi-finals which consisted of the same format as the previous day, but this time the judges scored the presentations and selected teams to advance to the final round. After the pitches, all teams, judges, and moderators met in the ballroom to enjoy an amazing lunch and keynote panel of successful female entrepreneurs.

The panel was a chance to hear real business women discuss the grueling process of heading up a start-up, how they continuously pivoted, and what they have learned. As a previous NVC competitor, UO alum and Red Duck co-founder, Shannon Oliver gave input on the competition, stating “you can’t do well in this competition if you don’t know what you’re talking about, and in order to know what you’re talking about you have to have done your research”. This was spot on. The most successful teams were the ones that could authentically talk about their business and motives behind their venture, and convince the judges that they were knowledgeable about the industry.  After the lunch and judging deliberations, all participants, judges, and organizers took time to relax and mingle at the Portland Bowling Mixer where students showed off their bowling and gaming skills!

finals2

VivImmune from the University of Arkansas presenting to the judges during the finals round.

Day 3

The final day of the competition was an amazing learning experience. All moderators took on the roles of “shadow judges”. We watched the final presentations, critiqued each pitch as a group, and gave final recommendations to the judges. After providing feedback, we got to sit in on judges’ deliberations, and were proud when our rankings matched. As someone who wants to work with start-ups and may participate in this competition next year, the opportunity to hear the judges’ questions for the teams and rationale behind final decisions was an irreplaceable educational experience.

The winners were announced at the Awards Reception where we got to end the weekend on a high-note – the TougHer team from the UO won second place and took home $10,000!  Congrats!

 

Thinking of participating in NVC in the future? Here are some quick tips: 

  1. Be passionate.It’s not enough just to have a polished presentation. The most successful and convincing teams were the ones that were the most authentic and presented from the heart.
  2. Get your financials in order.When a judge doubts one number, they begin to doubt them all. Then they begin to question your credibility. Not sure about your numbers? Go the conservative route, but be able to explain your reasoning.
  3. Be prepared to be interrupted. A real pitch is a dynamic conversation. Come ready to answer any question about your business plan and anticipate judges’ concerns. Including answers to these concerns in your appendix will also help you maintain your cool during the Q&A.
  4. Network.This competition is rich with knowledgeable students, judges, and business people – use this opportunity to your advantage. And don’t forget to have fun!

    tougHer

    The Oregon MBA TougHer Team

  5. Be there to learn.We get it – this idea is your baby. However, if you’re open to critique and look for the learning opportunity in every situation, you are more likely to pivot in a direction that will lead to success.

Written by Kathryn Butera

Kathryn is originally from the Bay Area and is currently a first year MBA student in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship.