The Center for Entrepreneurship at the UNL College of Business Administration hosted EntrepreneuringDays@UNL April 7-9 at the Embassy Suites in Lincoln, Nebraska. The event featured two new venture competitions, the Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards Dinner, several special speakers and networking events connecting students with the business community. The competitions were conducted much like the television show “Shark Tank” where students pitched their business ideas to a panel of professionals who served as judges for feedback and competed for $82,000 worth of funding.
This was the 18th
year for the UNL New Venture Competition which featured two categories – undergraduate and graduate categories. Students competed for the grand prize of $50,000 which must be used to fund the business pitched in the competition. The winners of each division also had the opportunity to compete in the 28th
annual Global New Venture Competition on Thursday, April 9.
Thomas Frederick, a PhD student in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics from Omaha, Nebraska, and Brock Smith, a 2013 MBA and JD graduate from Lincoln, Nebraska, won the UNL New Venture competition for their construction site tool tracking business, T&B Innovations. The former fraternity brothers were approached by an Omaha construction company last year to help them solve this costly problem.
“We feel like our beta app could change the way companies manage their tools when they are on a construction site,” said Smith. “Working directly with a construction company has enabled us to improve our product and make it a value to the industry.”
Theresa Welbourne, FirsTier Banks Distinguished Professor of Business and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, was impressed with the business plans presented by the UNL students competing in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the new venture competitions.
“I see this event as a learning event that gives students the opportunity to take what they are learning in the classroom and making it a practical experience,” she said. “Through competing, listening to speakers from established and growing companies and connecting to other entrepreneurs, it has been a beneficial learning experience for everyone.”
The UNL New Venture Competition winners were:
• Grand Prize, $50,000 –
T&B Innovations, LLC, Thomas Frederick, Omaha, Nebraska, PhD student in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics; and Brock Smith, Lincoln, Neb., economics ’10 and Law/MBA ’13. T&B Innovations, LLC, is a hardware tracking device to track construction equipment.
• 1st Graduate Division, $2,000 –
Rodman Cattle Company, Tyler Rodman, Lexington, Nebraska, graduate student in applied science. Rodman Cattle Company is a 3,000 head capacity custom backgrounding feedyard located in north Missouri specializing in developing feeder calves for transfer to finish feedlots.
• 2nd Graduate Division, $1,500 –
Rodeo Analytics, Alex Adams, York, Nebraska, graduate student in mechanical engineering and applied mechanics. Rodeo Analytics will provide video analysis for competitors in rodeos and horse shows of their technical skills through image processing to help them earn more prize money.
• 3rd Graduate Division, $1,000 –
Fanlete, Christopher Aumueller, Lincoln, Nebraska, MBA student. Fanlete offers the first comprehensive social network specifically designed for college sports that allows users the opportunity to receive information and create content, thus being more connected.
• 1st Undergraduate Division, $2,000 –
Bongo Watersports, Grant Gehlen, Eagan, Minnesota, senior, business administration; Tess Merrill, Grand Island, Nebraska, senior, finance and management; Drew Bartek, Lincoln, Nebraska, senior, finance; and Adam Pieper, Norfolk, Nebraska, junior, management. Bongo Watersports will enhance the water sport experience by allowing you to enjoy music with a life jacket/vest with speakers and a waterproof spot to house your iPod/media device.
• 2nd Undergraduate Division, $1,500 –
BugEater Labs, Inc., Kelly Sturek, Las Vegas, Nevada, senior, management; Julianne Kopf, Falls City, Nebraska, senior, food science and technology; and Alec Wiese, Fremont, Nebraska. BugEater Labs, Inc., wants to change societal norms in terms of what we eat by offering crickets as way to enhance a protein rich diet.
• 3rd Undergraduate Division, $1,000 –
Chamomileon Herbal Tea, Janessa Onwiler, Panama, Nebraska, senior, management. Chamomileon Herbal Tea will grow and produce high quality tea which will be sold directly to consumers at farmer’s markets, grocery stores and on-line at a lower cost than imported tea.
• Thomas G. Guy Startup Team Award, $2,000
– Jack Trips, Courtney Sloan, Lincoln, Nebraska, senior, business administration, and Randi Miller, Oxford, Nebraska, senior, management. Jack Trips is a travel and event organization service which aims to redefine the way you travel within the Midwest.
The UNL Distinguished Entrepreneur Awards Dinners honored three entrepreneurs for their innovation, success and entrepreneurial spirit on April 8. The 2015 award winners were:
• Nebraska Distinguished Entrepreneur Award –
This year's award was given in memory of W. Patrick Clarke, co-founder and former co-chairman of NorthStar Financial Services. NorthStar is the umbrella organization that owns Orion Advisor Services LLC, CLS Investments LLC and Gemini Fund Services LLC. The three companies Clarke managed had a combined $120 billion in assets. His son Brett Clarke, vice president of branding and hypermedia, accepted the award in his father's honor.
• New Company Entrepreneur Awards –
Matt Medlock, CEO and founder of PaySAFE, was presented this award. With more than 20 years of banking experience, he built PaySAFE, an online closing table providing buyers and sellers a one-stop location to create, negotiate and close trades with financial protection, from no customers or transactions at the start of 2012 to having registered users in 32 states and 31 countries.
• Start-up Executive Award –
Bill Hipsher, co-founder of B2 Interactive, received this award. Hipsher founded B2 Interactive, a full-service digital marketing agency in Omaha, in 2012 with Brandon Taylor. He has more than 15 years of experience in web design and digital marketing and leads the digital marketing group at B2 Interactive.
The Global New Venture competition on Thursday, April 9, concluded the three-day event. Sixteen student teams from 10 universities including the University of Nebraska–Lincoln pitched their business ideas for funding to a panel of business professionals who served as judges.
Grant Gehlen, a senior business administration major at UNL from Eagan, Minnesota, was a part of the team who won the undergraduate division of the competition with Bongo Watersports, which offers life jackets with speakers and a waterproof spot to house an iPod/media device. The team advanced to the global competition after placing first in the undergraduate division of the UNL New Venture Competition on April 7.
“We feel like our innovative life jacket can change how we experience water sports,” said Gehlen. “Presenting our business plan and receiving feedback from other entrepreneurs and business professionals has been invaluable.”
Michael Feldstein, a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, won the graduate division with Müvr, a mobile application and wearable device that improves care for joint replacement patients. His win guarantees his team’s entry into the 2015 Global Venture Labs Investment Competition at the University of Texas at Austin. Feldstein believes the UNL competition was one of the best he has attended.
“This event has had an atmosphere of collaboration even though it’s a competition. From judges to fellow competitors, everyone has been sharing advice and lessons learned,” he said. “I would have to say the best thing about Nebraska is the people.”
The energy around talking about new ideas has one of the competition’s judges coming back year after year. Steve Glenn ’79, president and founder of Executive Travel, said this year’s competition was full of investable businesses.
“This year’s graduate division featured four of the best business ideas I’ve seen presented in this competition in my 10 years volunteering as a judge,” Glenn said. “We saw some innovative product-based business ideas that could be scalable on a national and global level.”
The UNL Global Venture Competition winners were:
• 1st Graduate Division, $7,000 –
Müvr, Michael Feldstein, Stanford University, Hillsborough, California,post-doctoral fellow in biodesign; Farzad Azimpour, Houston, Texas, post-doctoral fellow in biodesign; Andy McGibbon, Winnemucca, Nevada, post-doctoral fellow in biodesign; and Theo Tam, San Leandro, California, post-doctoral fellow in biodesign.
Müvr utilizes a mobile application paired with a wearable device to optimize perioperative care for total joint replacement patients.
• 2nd Graduate Division, $4,000 –
T&B Innovations, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
• 3rd Graduate Division, $2,000 –
Rodeo Analytics, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
• 1st Undergraduate Division, $4,000 –
Bongo Watersports, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
• 2nd Undergraduate Division, $2,000 –
3D Cycler, Josh Kosar, Arizona State University, Chandler, Arizona, sophomore robotics engineering major; and Riley Chicci, Flagstaff, Arizona, sophomore robotics engineering major. 3DCycler will take used plastic bottles and convert them into 3D printable filament for use in any filament-based 3D printer.
• 3rd Undergraduate Division, $1,000 –
BugEater Labs, Inc., University of Nebraska–Lincoln
The Center for Entrepreneurship is focused on helping students learn and practice the art and science of growth. The Center’s mission is to inspire and empower UNL students to become “Startup People”, educating them to be active in creating their own future.
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