Venture Quest

Team Nemies takes 2014 by storm

Originating out of the summer 2013 Technology Entrepreneurship Program (TEP), Team Nemies has worked in collaboration with the original researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) as they continue their quest to build Nemies into a real company. After months of research, testing, and business plan writing Nemies found great success winning the Elevator Pitch competition and Venture Quest competition in December 2013! 

From Left: Alex Hankins (JD), Lindsey Arkfeld (MBA), Derek Schloss (JD/MBA),

From Left: Alex Hankins (JD), Lindsey Arkfeld (MBA), Derek Schloss (JD/MBA),

Every year roughly two million kindergartners across the United States struggle with learning how to read. We’re the Nemies team, and we’re hoping to solve that problem.

Nemies is a cutting-edge education app developed for the iPad by some of the best and brightest researchers in speech and language learning. The app helps children learn phonemes—the building blocks of reading and writing. The app’s software tracks the progress of the children who use it in order to adapt and tailor its lessons to appropriately challenge students, all while gathering valuable data that can be applied by parents and professionals.

Our team – Lindsey Arkfeld (MBA), Derek Schloss (JD/MBA), and Alec Hankins (JD)— had the opportunity to pitch the app’s business plan at this year’s Venture Quest competition. We built on the idea from this summer’s Technology Entrepreneurship Program, and further defined the business model in New Venture Planning. Our team placed first in the overall competition, and also won first place awards in two elevator pitch categories. We plan to take our business plan through the Venture Launch Pathway, and will compete next in the Mai Thailand Bangkok Challenge.

Participating in the Venture Quest competition provided us the opportunity to showcase our research from the term and communicate a clear picture of the business plan to a panel of judges from the business community. We gained tremendous momentum and positive feedback from the judges, along with suggestions on areas of improvement. Testing the idea and defending the plan under live-fire conditions required us to fully understand the business model and identify gaps we might still be lacking.

Venture Quest also allowed us to celebrate the progress of the other teams and see how far our class had come in refining our respective ideas. We thoroughly enjoyed the competition and want to thank all the advisers, faculty, and other teams for their support!


Written by lloepp

Lauren is an MBA Candidate in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. She is a native Oregonian who came to the Oregon MBA after receiving a BS in Psychology from Linfield College and working in business development at an Oregon Research and Development company. She plans to work with businesses in organizational behavior and culture to manage organizational change.

Red Duck Ketchup: What you need to know

Want to know more about Red Duck Ketchup, the recent champions of the Graduate Venture Quest competition? Here is a quick profile of the team, their business plan, and the ketchups’ successes so far!

Who is Red Duck?

  • Kurt “More Meatloaf” Barajas (JD/MBA 2013): Financial whiz and negotiation specialist with concentration in business law.
  • Karen “Crazy for Veggie Burgers” Bonner (MBA 2013): Background in finance and corporate strategy, product development specialist, food nerd.
  • Shannon “Pass the Cajun Tots” Oliver (MBA 2013): Experience at food startup companies, operations expert, concentration in sustainability.
  • Jess “Don’t Call Them Freedom Fries” Zutz (JD/MBA 2014): Background in restaurant and kitchen management, branding, marketing, and social media professional.

What is Red Duck Ketchup?

When was the last time you were excited about ketchup?  As adults, we realized that ketchup’s cachet has faded as our palates have matured. We started Red Duck Ketchup as a specialty foods company based to re-introduce the world to ketchup through our line of artisan condiments and our quirky West Coast brand.

Why ketchup?

During the Oregon MBA’s Engaging Asia experiential learning trip, the four of us found we shared passions for travel and food. After many conversations lamenting the fact that our grocery stores back home don’t carry many products featuring our favorite exotic flavors, we realized there’s a gap in the market. We decided to remedy this by combining our business backgrounds with our foodie expertise to create a line of artisan ketchups.

How did we develop the business?

After returning from our trip to Asia in September, the four of us enrolled in New Venture Planning, part of the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship’s Venture Launch sequence. This course gave us the opportunity to transform our vision into a solid business plan. We had opportunities to meet with successful entrepreneurs and other mentors to guide us and help us prepare a defensible business strategy.

During the course of the term, we fine-tuned our recipes and did blind taste tests against other specialty ketchups. Our biggest tasting event happened at the beloved Bagel Day, a weekly LCB event that supplies grad students with snacks and coffee. We were able to bring in fresh French fries and conduct a head-to-head blind taste test of our three ketchups (Classic, Spicy, and Curry) against three similar competitors. After 52 people completed our market research survey, we crunched the numbers and were pleased to see that Red Duck Ketchup crushed all three competitors! This was a pivotal moment in the term, as it provided us with some basic customer validation and a compelling chart for our business plan.

We then had the opportunity to participate in the OMBA’s Venture Quest Competition, where we won the elevator pitch and business plan competition, securing almost $2000 to start funding our business. Over winter break, we worked to refine our business plan and begin positioning our company for success in the future. With the start of winter term now here, we’ll be moving on to Venture Startup 1, the next phase in the venture launch sequence. Quack!

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Ketchup with the Venture Quest Competition!

This past Friday I had the opportunity to moderate the Graduate Venture Quest competition.  Overall this was a great event to see second-year and accelerated MBA students present their business plans from the New Venture Planning class.  Judges for the event included:

  • August Sick, the current Entrepreneur in Residence at ONAMI, who has a great deal of experience in biotech, and currently consults to both startups and hospitals as a board member.
  • Caroline Cummings, the VP of Marketing at Palo Alto Software, and the co-founder of several entrepreneurial networking groups in Oregon.
  • Jon Kruse, of Intel Capital, who has helped close deals for a variety of well-known startups, including Skype, and is a board member for a variety of for-profit, and Portland-based community groups.

In a twist that I found very interesting, the format was quite dissimilar to most formal class presentations, as the judges stopped the presenting students throughout the presentation to ask questions.  This tested the presenters in their ability to keep their presentations moving and effectively communicate their message.  It was great to see the judges challenge the teams by asking compelling questions that would be relevant for potential investors.

The business plans presented by student groups were:
  • EndorsEase: An athlete endorsement website to match athletes with companies looking for athlete endorsements
  • Red Duck Ketchup: A gourmet ketchup start-up
  • Prometheon Technologies: A laser spark plug for use in natural gas combustion engines.
These three concepts presented were put to the test by the judges who cross-examined their overall business plans, financial analysis, competitors, challenges, etc… And when the presentation-interrogations were finished, it was the Red Duck Ketchup team that took home the grand prize of $1500.
As a budding entrepreneur, this event offered a first hand experience beyond just presenting.  The judges offered great insight to how to better prepare for going on the business plan competition circuit, and I can’t wait to compete next year!
Nathaniel Rotta, Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship, Class of 2014

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Venture Quest 2011

The graduate Venture Quest business plan competition wrapped up today. Congratulations to this year’s winner Hawk Mobility Systems and runners-up Emerald Algae Solutions and Dynamic Advertising Solutions. The teams made it through a rigorous vetting process by a panel of investors and business professionals to take home cash prizes. Teams put in a ton of work over the course of the term and it showed. The presentations were fantastic.

Venture Quest is the culmination of fall term’s New Venture Planning course. Over the course of the term, students develop business plans to launch or grow a new business. In the beginning of the term, students form teams and pitch their ideas for startups. Many of the business ideas come out of the Technology Entrepreneurship Program that students in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship track worked on last summer. Other plans are based on existing businesses looking to grow or startup ideas that students are interested in developing. The next 9 weeks are spent exploring opportunities, researching market potential, developing financial plans, and putting together an investor presentation.

NVP is rigorous but rewarding. It’s like a business plan bootcamp. Teams develop their idea with the guidance of mentors from a variety of backgrounds and professional experiences. It’s amazing to look back on where the teams started and how far they have come in such a short amount of time. While Venture Quest marks the end of NVP, teams have the opportunity to continue working on their business plan in the winter and spring terms in Venture Startup. VSU has two tracks, a competition track and a venture launch track. Teams in the competition track submit their plans to business plan competitions across the country. In previous years, UO teams have attended competitions at Carnegie Mellon, University of Louisville, University of Manitoba, University of Texas, San Diego, and New Venture Challenge (NVC), UO’s own graduate business plan competition in Portland. This track is geared towards the teams that are looking for angel investors or venture capital funding. Teams in the venture launch track focus their energies on preparing to launch their business. Both tracks offer a unique experience for participants. It will be exciting to watch teams move forward and continue to bring their businesses to life.


Emerald Algae

EAS is a bio-tech startup that is turning waste-water into liquid gold. Their process uses algae to clean food processing waste-water while producing value added commodities. Team: Jennifer Adams (MBA), Chris Canazaro (MBA), Rusten Gomez (JD/MBA), Jaren May (MBA)

Dynamic Advertising Solutions

DAS operates an online bidding platform for smaller advertisers entering the outdoor advertising market by lowering the minimum display time that an advertiser needs to purchase, which reduces the per unit cost. As a result, advertisers with relatively small budgets can afford to pay for advertising. Team: Kala Bernhardt (JD), Yasin Karim (PhD Physics), Brian Oehler (MBA), Ben Ryon (MBA)

Hawk Mobility Systems

Hawk Mobility Systems makes the Hawk Easy Lift – a simple, safe, and space-saving solution for moving patients. It is fully motorized and attaches directly to industry standard hospital-style beds allowing a single caregiver to lift and move a patient carefully in a home or institutional setting. Team: James Collins (MBA), Peter Philbrick (JD/MBA), Dan Richmond (MBA), Bryan Schoen (MBA)

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.