Entrepreneurship

OMBA takes the Bend Venture Conference

The numbers have been crunched, the presentation decks prepared, and nerves are on high. Your carefully thought out idea is about to become reality…but only if you win. Welcome to the Bend Venture Conference.

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As an MBA student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track, I expected to be provided with insights into the start-up world within a classroom context. But when I found myself, only three-weeks into my MBA program, traveling to Bend, Oregon for my first venture conference I realized that the Oregon MBA exceeds expectations.

A venture conference is an event where ideas turn into actions. A little research on the Bend Venture Conference (BVC) website led me to expect a multi-day entrepreneurship-focused event and close to $1 million in prize money. The start-up companies were broken into three categories of competition: Social Impact, Early Stage, and Growth Stage. 15 founders were going to pitch their start-up ideas to groups of investors. And I was going to be part of it.

After arriving at the Tower Theater in Bend, my classmates and I got settled in for the first round of competition: Social Impact. Here, companies were formed around the idea of helping others. We saw presentations centered around water conservation, fighting human sex trafficking, and blood-borne disease diagnostic tools. To round out this philanthropic group, Rebekah Bastian, the Vice President of Product at Zillow took the stage as the key note speaker. Bastian discussed how she is leveraging her role at the United States’ leading online real estate marketplace to help end homelessness.

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The Early Stage competition kicked off Day Two. Here we saw six founders pitch their hopeful companies for three minutes each. Again, the company focuses varied. Anything from inner-tire suspension to rainwater collection systems to crowdsourcing apps could be found onstage. These new companies were competing for $15,000 and the vote was decided by the audience. I was amazed to know that my ballet could help the company I most believed in launch.

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The Growth Stage competition rounded out the conference. The five companies were seeking seeding funding, typically in the amount of 1 million dollars. These companies – like Cartogram, Hubb, and Outdoor Project – have all been around for a few years and the founders were practiced presenters. The keynote speaker for Day Two was Loni Stark, the Senior Director of Strategy and Product Marketing at Adobe and the co-founder of Stark Insider, a West Coast media brand. Stark shared her thoughts on the significance of digital on customer experience and marketing.

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As a future entrepreneur and hopeful starter-upper like myself, the face value of attending the BVC was obvious. It was a chance to see how entrepreneurs and investors were going to come together to bring the next big thing to market. I was able to learn impactful tips, like what to wear on stage, at what pace to speak, and how to stand while presenting. I was able to apply the business terms I have been learning in my MBA classes to a real-world application. But the most valuable lesson I learned at the BVC that it is always possible to turn your passion into your career.

There is little scarier than introducing yourself as a Master’s student specializing in innovation and entrepreneurship to a room of innovative entrepreneurs. There is a pressure to have that next million-dollar idea researched and ready. So when you don’t have it all figured out, it is easy to feel apprehensive. But the BVC showed me how to discover that million-dollar idea… Or at least where to start. Despite how varied the ideas presented on stage were, the theme was all the same: do what you love. Discover your passion and work within that space. And if no one is doing exactly what you want to, go out and build that company from the bottom up.

I had high expectations for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. But looking back at the connections made, ideas inspired, and knowledge grasped while attending the BVC with the classmates, I realize that the Oregon MBA is already exceeding expectations.

 

Written by Tess Meyer

Tess is a 2018 MBA in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship track. With a background in Psychology and experience managing extensive teams, she is passionate about driving human potential. Tess' aim is to enter career services where she can encourage sustainable career passion for clients and businesses alike. When she is not writing or studying, Tess can be found hiking, reading, or trying a new restaurant. Learn more on www.frombrowneyes.com.

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.

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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!

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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!

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    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.

Success at NVC and beyond

As many of you may have already heard, our very own TougHER (Stacey Edwards, Brawnson Adams, and Justin LaTempa) took second place at our New Venture Championship this past weekend. In addition to the $10k prize, I know the team gathered great feedback and ideas from the judges and found inspiration in the response to their opportunity.

Kate Blazar, leader of team Animosa helped us make the event great for our guests in her role as LCE GTF, helping all weekend and spearheading our annual team social/bowling event. Both TougHER and Animosa are continuing forward towards making their dreams real through our Venture Startup class and other Oregon MBA courses.

It takes a whole program to help these ideas launch and the Lundquist College of Business is proving to be a great place for MBAs to incubate their ideas. That shows with the success of our graduates. Here are some of our highlights-Red Duck Ketchup

  • Red Duck Foods has launched a line of BBQ sauces and is expanding in the Northeast US soon. They are adding stores, raising money, and having fun. Co-founder Shannon Oliver was on our panel at NVC and it was amazing to see how mature and wise the team has gotten as they’ve built a great company.
  • Cowbucker continues to share the ‘Bucker’ with more of the world! That team is adding schools for licensed products and launching new designs to keep their business growing. Stop by 222 E 11th and visit their local storefront to see what’s new.
  • AirFit is now Roam Fitness – With a prototype gym in Bend, and the first location at JFK moving forward, Ty and Cynthia are making great progress towards making us all happier and healthier travelers.

Picky Bars on the shelves of Trader JoesAnd in other news… Oregon MBA Alum extraordinaire Jesse Thomas has recently made a big announcement about his company Picky Bars. Spoiler: Look for them in your local Trader Joe’s!!!

So what’s the theme here? I’d say that the Oregon MBA attracts and encourages independent thinkers with the passion and commitment to make their dreams reality. Our programs and classes, in all subjects, push students to think bigger and be disciplined in applying what they’ve learned in class. Our community of alumni, mentors, and others provides the foundation for testing business models, building connections to industries, and growing a supportive network that helps in unexpected ways.

It’s an honor to watch ideas become reality. The same set of immense challenges face all entrepreneurs. The knowledge, skills, and learning environment that we provide here helps our students gain an advantage and go forth to build great companies. We should all be proud of our startup Ducks!

Written by Nathan Lillegard

I run the programs and activities for the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. My experience includes enterprise software development and implementations and operational process improvement. I started a biotech company called Floragenex, got it off the ground, secured investors and customers, and left it in the capable hands of a great team.

WOMEN’S WORKWEAR: A Celebration of a Formidable Force

The Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship has fostered some impressive start-up companies over the years. One of the current MBA start-ups is TOUGHER a woman’s workwear company. The company’s new blog describes the evolution of the concept. Check it out below or on the Wear TOUGHER blog.

Stacey Founder of TOUGHERDuring today’s 3-mile run fraught with rain, Beyonce’s anthem of female empowerment fueled an extra “umph” in my stride despite what felt like nature spitting in my eye. As the talented singer rhetorically asks, “Who runs the world? (Girls),” I thought of the nearly 400 women we have interviewed who Grow, Build, and Make. Women who similarly motivate me to work harder and leave me inspired after every conversation we have shared.

TOUGHER women run the world along with some incredible men, who are their colleagues, partners, friends, and supporters. The major difference between the two sexes, however, is that a serious oversight has long existed for women who need and want durable clothing that fits their body’s frame and protects them while they repair fences, birth calves, or grow stunning crops and flowers.

Men have had their pick of workwear brands; whereas, nearly all women we have interviewed are left to shop the men’s aisles (98%) and must modify their clothing to make them work in clunky fashion (89%). Imagine having to hack your clothes with scissors and duct tape just to make them work for your job or passion.

TOUGHER‘s mission is simple: Great workwear. Built for women. Yet, emails received from women nationwide remind us that what we represent is more than that. TOUGHER acknowledges and celebrates the importance women in skilled trades and artisanal crafts represent. What our customers create matters and deserves our attention.

Imagine a time before sports uniforms were made specifically for women and girls. A not-too-distant past where sports bras did not exist, but had to be made by 3 women sewing together two jockstraps because no such thing existed in 1977. Once apparel was produced to outfit women and girls for sports, it signaled to the world and its wearers that what they contributed to sports mattered- regardless of whether they were a professional athlete or not.

In similar fashion, designing and selling durable, comfortable apparel for women is our way of raising a glass to all women who grind it out each day and work hard with their hands.

We’re so proud of all of you and what you’re doing. Keep sending us your photos of the home projects you build, bridges you designed, or plowed acres you accomplished in a day’s work. You can send them to: weartougher@gmail.com or post to our Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/weartougher/

Your apparel is in the design phase and coming. We can’t wait to see what you do in it! Here’s a toast raised to you.

Stacey, Founder and CEO

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Team TougHER takes on the Louisville Cardinal Challenge

The Louisville Cardinal Challenge is an annual business plan competition held in Louisville, Kentucky. Hosted by the University of Louisville, the Cardinal Challenge is one of the first events of the business plan competition season and offers students seeking to launch a business an opportunity to measure up to their counter parts from around the nation. The 2016 edition was sponsored by Brown Forman and offered thousands in prize money and services to the winner.

The competition had an opening round of four tracks with three teams within each track. The winner of each track moved on to the final round. Those teams who didn’t advance out of the first round competed in the 60-second quick pitch competition within the competition.Team TougHer at the Cardinal Challenge

The Team TougHER journey began in the opening round where we presented second out of three teams. Our presentation went well and we felt confident coming out of the Q&A session. Our opening round track included a team specializing in a new natural and organic chicken feed that fought diseases in chickens and a team who created a new solid-state rocket fuel source. Needless to say, we quite a challenge in front of us.

Later in the day, the competition hosted a luncheon with all the teams and announced the winners of each track. Unfortunately, Team TougHER didn’t successfully emerge from the opening round. The team pushing rocket fuel edged us out by the narrowest of margins.

Next up was probably the part I found to be most valuable. After lunch we were guided to our feedback session with the judges who evaluated both our presentation performance and the overall quality of our business plan. The judges provided critical feedback and assured us that we weren’t far off from a winning plan and pitch. Once through with the feedback session, our fearless leader, Stacey, put together a pitch for the 60-second quick pitch mini competition.

Stacey competing in the fast pitch for team TougHERFor the quick pitch competition, the moderator called up each of the eight selected speakers from each team and then randomly selected who would pitch. The presenters were allowed no more than 60 seconds which was then followed by two minutes of time for the judges to make notes and score the pitch. After a nerve-racking half hour, Stacey was selected to pitch last. Realizing that she was missing important details of our business in her original pitch, Stacey scrapped the pitch she prepped and free styled the pitch. Later than evening at the awards banquet, it was announced that Stacey had brought home the title for the quick pitch division along with $1,500 for the business.

As a native of Hawaii, I never thought I would find myself bundled up in 19-degree weather in the heart of Kentucky. I knew the Oregon MBA was going to challenge me in many ways but I never expected to be pitching in front of panels of entrepreneurial experts and other MBA’s and PHD students. It made me really value the multiple speech classes I took in high school.

This business plan competition offered me a chance to not only see what my counter parts across the nation are doing, but it also gave me a chance to see just how well I stack up to the competition. After this experience, I can confidently say that Oregon MBAs are just as competitive as any other out there. It was especially cool to see all the different innovations that others are working on and how they view the landscape of their respective industries.

Overall, this experience provided a ton of learning points and exposure to things that I never imagined. I now know more about solid-state rocket fuel than I ever thought I would. I am extremely grateful to be a part of this team and for the opportunities that the Oregon MBA has given me. Next for Team TougHER will be the New Venture Championship in Portland, April 7-9. We hope to see you there!

Written by Brawnson Adams

Brawnson is a 2016 MBA from the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. A native of Hawaii, Brawnson has an extensive background in retail and an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Hawaii Shidler College of Business.

Outfitting America’s Toughest Women

Similar to other businesses, the founding of TOUGHER came from frustrations I personally experienced. For women in professional trades or hardcore DIYers like myself, finding workwear that holds up to the abuses of hard physical labor is daunting. Despite the fact that women have been getting it done well before Rosie the Riveter, hard physical labor is still viewed as men’s work- leading to a chronic lack of focus on women as a consumer group among workwear brands.

Until now.

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Beth getting it done on her organic farm. She wishes for better work pants that fit women.

Since enrolling last year in the Oregon MBA’s innovation/entrepreneurship track, significant strides have been made in launching our brand. Over 300 women have validated the need for a women’s workwear brand focused on comfortable workwear without the color pink or bedazzlement. TOUGHER was also selected as the regional winner and semi-finalist for the Small Business Administration’s InnovateHER Challenge. Lastly, our team comprised of Justin La Tempa (Finance, Class of 2016), Brawnson Adams (I/E, Class of 2016), and myself have been selected to compete in the 2016 Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge at the University of Louisville on February 13, 2016.

Starting an apparel brand has many moving parts and takes a special kind of crazy, as one of my advisers would say. However, it is the most alive and creative I have ever felt- hinting that we’re on the right path. Whenever I receive an email or grab coffee with a woman who is craving a better work pant or field shirt, like I am, it fuels me through any hardship experienced at the moment. After all, I founded TOUGHER not as a vanity brand unto myself, but to unite a community of women long ignored and inspire a new generation of young girls to get dirty, grow, build, and make.

Written by Stacey Edwards

Stacey will be graduating in June 2016 from the Oregon MBA's Innovation/Entrepreneurship track. Her past career experience include more than ten years of service in public health. She has successfully authored and passed local and state-level statutes, mentored more than 700 college students in professional development, taught undergraduate and graduate courses at Oregon State University and conducted assessment on client satisfaction and programmatic learning outcomes.

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Undergrads Display Entrepreneurial Chops in Civil War Shark Tank

The UO vs OSU Civil War Shark Tank competition shares similarities with ABC’s Shark Tank, however it has a different impact on its audience. Instead of watching strangers who are typically older, not college-age individuals, in this contest the competitors are my peers. I know the hard work they’ve put into bringing their ideas to fruition and watching them compete in this event makes me want to push my own boundaries too. One of the most distinctive things about this undergrad event is that students get direct feedback, both criticism and praise, from professionals within a range of business industries. This year marked the third annual event for the friendly competition between the two rival schools, and the first time OSU has been the host. During this year’s event, OSU added an elevator pitch free-for-all competition. Adding this mini event provided all attendees—including me—with the opportunity to use their creativity and brainstorming power.

Some contestants have never even pitched before, and have accelerated their idea in a matter of weeks to be showcased in this event. Students have entered industries that I wouldn’t have thought possible at our age. Last year it was health care and this year it was pay-per-click budgeting. At Shark Tank I get to witness students like me put their best foot forward and be courageous. The innovations that students come up with are inspiring not just in nature, but in the efforts that their creators have put into the product or service. Orchid Health, the winner of last year’s competition, has since won numerous other funding opportunities and have had their primary care clinic running for almost a year now.

Entrepreneurship requires immense creativity and tenacity, qualities that are applicable beyond just the business world, which is why I am so drawn to it. Entrepreneurs and the innovation they bring are needed in all industries. While there is an element of competition, it’s a very positive atmosphere. Students and professionals get to connect and share ideas. The main competition also gives the participants invaluable feedback in order to allow them to further improve and flourish, and for some, capital investment to help them get business going. I look forward to continuing this tradition between the University of Oregon and Oregon State entrepreneurship programs, and next year we will be back on Duck turf.

—Katie Breeden ’17 

About Katie: I am the current president of the UO Entrepreneurship Club and loving every minute of it. I plan to graduate in spring 2017 with a double major in business (with a concentration in marketing) and digital arts. If I have time, I’ll also pick up a product design minor. Creativity and design are two of my biggest passions. Aside from the Entrepreneurship Club I am a member of the Business Honors Program, Kappa Alpha Theta, and work with the Lundquist College of Business Job Shadow Program. One day I hope to own my own marketing and design company located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Katie Breeden is president of the college’s Entrepreneurship Club.

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

From Cal Bear to Oregon Duck: Highlights from San Francisco

Earlier this month, the entire first-year MBA cohort had the opportunity to spend the first week of April in the San Francisco Bay Area visiting with top executives in a wide variety of companies.

In just four days, we met with Levi Strauss, Blackrock, Strava, Wells Fargo, the Federal Reserve, Farmland LP, Capital One, LinkedIn, Google, Women’s Startup Lab, Interwest Partners, Bay Area Impact Investing Initiative, RSF Social Finance, Clif Bar and Sierra Nevada Brewery! We also had a little time to explore downtown San Francisco, take pictures under the Golden Gate Bridge, and spend the evening playing in the Exploratorium.

Showing our Oregon pride under the Golden Gate Bridge

Showing our Oregon pride under the Golden Gate Bridge

While I was excited to get insight into the inner workings of some incredibly successful companies, I was also thrilled to be returning to the Bay Area for the first time in a few years. I did my undergrad at the University of California, Berkeley, and I was eager to show my new friends around all of my old favorite spots in the city.

Oregon Ducks take over the UC-Berkeley Campus (My alma mater)

Oregon Ducks take over the UC-Berkeley Campus (My alma mater)

 

It would be hard to pick my favorite experience from our week in the Bay, but I was able to narrow it down to a list of my top three:

  1. Clif Bar

Going in to the trip, Clif Bar was the company that I was most excited to visit, and the office tour did not disappoint. Between the rock-climbing wall in the employee gym, bike parts repurposed as door handles, an endless supply of snack bars, and a program that allows employees to volunteer for an unlimited number of paid hours, it would be hard not to want a job at Clif. Our group was lucky enough to meet with the CFO, who shared stories about what it was like to work for the company 15 years ago when the CEO turned down a $120 million offer and decided to keep Clif Bar private. As far as authentic companies go, Clif Bar is the real deal.

  1. RSF Social Finance

One of the primary benefits of the experiential learning trips is the opportunity to be exposed to an array of companies in many different industries. While I am not personally interested in a career in impact investing, I really enjoyed learning about RSF Social Finance. RSF is a nonprofit financial services organization dedicated to transforming the way the world works with money. The visit with RSF drew together the interests of all three centers (finance, entrepreneurship, and sustainability) in attendance, as we had the chance to talk about social responsibility, financial analysis, and innovation and entrepreneurship within the company.

  1. Net Impact Meet Up

My third and final highlight of the trip was our meet up at UC-Berkeley’s graduate chapter of Net Impact, a nonprofit organization of students and professionals dedicated to using business skills for social and environmental causes. On Tuesday night, students from our chapter at UO met with students from the chapter at UC-Berkeley. We compared professional interests, internship prospects, and our plans for the Net Impact conference in Seattle, Washington in November. Of course, we also told stories about our experiences in grad school and laughed over local brews. This highlight might be biased, but it was eye-opening to see my college campus through the eyes of my new friends.

Despite feeling slightly nostalgic for my college days in Berkeley (who isn’t nostalgic for their alma mater), my biggest takeaway from San Francisco was a renewed appreciation for the MBA program at the University of Oregon. The experiential learning trips are just one of the many benefits of the Oregon MBA, and I feel really lucky to have a cohort full of intelligent, passionate, collaborative and enthusiastic students with which I can share these trips. Until next time, San Francisco!

Written by Katie Clark

Katie is a second year MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Over the summer, Katie worked for Happy Family Brands as the Corporate Social Responsibility Intern, where she managed multiple supply chain projects and provided employee education on topics in sustainability. She hopes to bring this experience and her MBA coursework to a strategic sustainability position in a mission-driven company in the outdoor product or natural foods industry.

AirFit Competes at Cardinal Challenge @ U. of Louisville

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After leaving Eugene on a 5:28 am flight, we arrived in Louisville, Kentucky, ready to pitch our company, AirFit, to the judges and audience at the Cardinal Challenge Business Plan Competition.  We knew we were up for a challenge as most teams competing were involved in life-sciences, and the judges would have to completely shift their mindset for our presentation. Unlike our fellow teams with their latest-and-greatest diabetes monitor or a new surgical instrument, our product is simple to understand.  AirFit is revamping the dreaded layover experience by placing gym and shower facilities into airport terminals, located behind security.  While most teams spent a significant amount of the presentation explaining how their product was better than the alternatives, our feat was to explain all the financial costs associated with our endeavor and why we were the best team to bring this vision to reality.

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Friday evening began with a social reception and introduction.  During our candid and brief self-intro to all the other groups and advisors, AirFit was immediately well-received, garnering applause and supportive cheers upon the initial announcement of what we were trying to accomplish.  Clearly AirFit’s value proposition was meeting the needs of many people in the crowd.  Funneling this supportive energy, we took to the stage bright and early the next morning, unveiling AirFit to the world outside Oregon for its maiden flight.  15 minutes of uninterrupted presentation, followed by another 15 of Q&A, we delivered a solid performance.

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The only team at the competition with just two founders, a completely different business model than any other company present, and having nothing to do with the deep fried chicken style concepts normally seen at this Kentucky competition, AirFit had the cards stacked against us.  These uphill battles became apparent when we discovered we unfortunately did not make it onto the final round.  Major challenges revolved around convincing judges to remain objective and not ask whether they, in fact, would use the product, but what the voice of the customer at large was telling us.  According to our market research (tinyurl.com/AirFitSurvey) of over 200 respondents, polled mainly in airport or gym environments, more than 85% indicated an interest for AirFit’s services, and at even what price-point they would be willing to pay.  Unfortunately these key data points fell on deaf ears and are an area of improvement in the presentation we plan on addressing in our next competition this spring.

While disappointed we did not win the competition, all of AirFit’s founders and team enjoyed the experience for what it was – a tremendous learning opportunity and one of the many rite-of-passages most new ventures must undergo. Our concept had open validation among individuals in the crowd, and even from competing teams.  The ability to compete in such an environment is a fantastic opportunity in and of itself.  Each team present in Louisville clearly contributed their own blood, sweat, and tears over the last few months to get to this point, only raising the overall caliber of the entire performance.  The final outcome of the situation is that all AirFit members are ready to tackle the next presentation, next investor meeting, and next step involved in taking our company forward on the path to success.  Namely, we are looking for one more individual with prior gym management experience to join the team in an operations role, and the next few months before graduation will be dedicated to this task.

airfit

Written by Ty

After graduating from Dartmouth College with a degree in applied mathematics, I worked in the non-profit world as a group facilitator and program manager for experiential education programs. During my time working for private and public organizations, we well as small and mammoth universities, I simultaneously acquired startup experience as I founded sub and side project departments under the greater umbrella of my larger employer. I am currently a 2nd year MBA student at the U. of Oregon and have full intentions on remaining with my startup company, AirFit, post graduation

Valentine’s Day in Thailand with Cricket Flours

It felt as busy as our Engaging Asia trip this past September, but this whirlwind of a journey was completed in only five days. The opportunity to participate in a business plan competition was something I had never experienced before — let alone an international competition. The talent of both the student groups and the judges were top-notch. This included some of the top-ranked schools in both the United States and Asia, as well as some of the most respected companies in Thailand. Being able to compare MBA experiences with people from around the world made for great conversation.

cricket flours team

The Cricket Flours team at our booth

We spent the first three days of the trip entirely focused on the competition. Every free moment was spent refining our presentation and incorporating the judge’s feedback. The months of hard work by the Cricket Flours team was rewarded when we were named our division’s top team. With this designation we earned an automatic berth into the competition’s final round. The finals were broadcasted live on Thai television and had $12,000 on the line. Cricket Flours was selected to present first in the finals round. This was both a blessing and curse because the team would be able to make the first impression on the judges but also meant we would face a panel eager to poke holes in our business plan. Ultimately, Cricket Flours was left out of the top two spots on the podium but the competition provided the team with great feedback concerning our marketing strategy and the cricket flour industry.

Thailand competition

The main stage and the 3 trophies that managed to elude us

After the competition our hosts, the Sasin Graduate School, arranged for us to spend an evening on the river in Bangkok followed by an entire day seeing the main cultural spots in the city. Our night on the river was capped off with a fireworks show in honor of Valentine’s Day. We visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Vimanmek Mansion. Being able to relax and hang out with our new international friends without the pressure of the competition was much needed.

However, as quickly as it had begun, I found myself back in Eugene learning Constitutional Law reminiscing about another incredible international experience provided by the Oregon MBA program.

Written by pmb@uoregon.edu

Paul Butler is a concurrent JD/MBA student at the University of Oregon currently in the Finance and Securities Analysis Center. His goal after he graduates in 2016 is to apply his education within a corporate finance department.