Stags of all grades with dreams of being future entrepreneurs sat anxiously in the Aloysius P. Kelley Center on Wednesday, Sept. 27, eager for the Annual Business Startup Competition Kickoff to begin.

One hundred people flooded the Kelley Center presentation room, including staff and prior contestants, to welcome new students into this unique program.

In short, the Business Startup Competition gives students the opportunity to present an original idea to a team of investors, with the hope of securing funding to take their business to the next level.

“It’s basically like ‘Shark Tank’ minus the sharks,” said Associate Professor of Information Systems & Operations Management Christopher Huntley, who organizes the competition each year.

The Business Startup Competition began in 2012, with a total audience of about 300 people for the final event.

Since then, the event has grown exponentially in popularity, with almost 5,000 people watching the final event last year, according to Huntley.

As the event has grown in volume, funding for the event has increased as well.

Huntley also disclosed that last year, close to $60,000 worth of investments were given out to students who could prove that they had an original idea and the power to make it succeed.

“I hope to eventually start my own business or pursue a startup. This competition will help us gain the knowledge needed to start our own business and learn about the different aspects of pursuing an idea,” said Ed Falcigno ‘19, who participated in the program for the first time this year.

The Startup Competition has been home to a plethora of different business models and ideas over the years.

Everything from Trees of Life, led by Emily Yale ‘18, a technology that would harvest water from trees that had purified it naturally through their roots, to Africa Requests, led by Julian Ashong ‘17, a delivery service designed to transport goods safely from the U.S. to  Africa.

The Business Startup Competition is a year-long event, with its kickoff happening in September and the final event taking place in the spring, on April 26.

Although the finale receives the most press, there are many events that go on behind the scenes that are crucial to the Startup Competition.

There will be an Elevator Pitch Contest in mid-October, a Business Model Workshop the second week of November, as well as the Showcase Qualifiers on Dec. 13.

Leaders of the program, such as Professor Huntley and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs in the Dolan School of Business, Mark Ligas, stressed that even if you are not the winning team, you leave the competition with a vast knowledge of what it takes to be an entrepreneur, as well as an assortment of connections to people in the industry; no one leaves empty-handed.

“This is a chance for the business side of you, the genius side of you, the entrepreneur side of you, to come out and flourish,” said Ligas.

Dean Ligas highlighted that the program draws attention to how important the entrepreneurship aspect of business is.

As the program’s popularity has grown since 2012, its message of encouraging students to start their own businesses directly correlates with the new Center for Entrepreneurship that will be featured in the new school of business, spanning 5,000 square feet.

Junior Sam Gindhart commented on what motivated him to participate in the competition this year. “I have heard only good things in the past … it seems like a great opportunity to learn, network and gain real-life experience for the business world,” said Gindhart.

As the event continues to progress throughout the school year, ideas will begin to take shape and business models will be formed.

Come spring, only a few teams will stand at the finale, with the opportunity to secure thousands of dollars in investments and truly display the entrepreneurship that they have began.

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