Elevator Pitch Competition awards entrepreneurs

Kaleb Marconette and Jacob Byrd pitch “rOS”, a technology-run restaurant.

Mark Feuerborn, [email protected]washburn.edu, is a freshman radiology major

The Washburn School of Business recently hosted its knockout round for the first annual Elevator Pitch Competition, a contest to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch an idea or product within a short time frame for a chance to win funding to bring their idea to life.

Assistant Professor of Marketing David Price believes that the Pitch competition went even better than expected, for its first run.

“We were anticipating twenty to twenty-five teams,” said Price. “We ended up with forty-seven teams, eighty-five students in total. Go Topeka, our partner, has come on board with twelve thousand dollars in prize money.”

The Pitch Competition had so many unexpected entries, in fact, that the competition had to be divided into two phases. The first phase is the knockout round, while the second phase is a final round with the six finalists. In the knockout round, students were given three minutes to deliver a prompt speech about their product or idea to a panel of judges. Students were not allowed to use technology, such as a slideshow, to help pitch their idea. However, they were allowed to use prototypes or prop versions of their product. The students’ pitches were judged based on innovation, feasibility of the idea, clarity of the idea, how well the business aspects of the idea were covered, and the wow factor.

“We’re trying to get them up to test their ideas in front of a panel, so they think through it a little bit, and eventually, even if they don’t do it while in school, they’re encouraged that maybe when they finally do graduate, it’s something that they may want to pursue,” said Price.

The finalists from the knockout round included “Syllabot”, an app that sorts all college assignments and tests into one checklist, “Night Terrors”, the first haunted house in the Topeka area market, “Bucket-rete” an all-in-one bucket with ready-to-mix concrete, “rOS”, a restaurant running fully with machines and no human waiters, “NanLife”, a “silver-based nano-technology treatment” that takes cancer cells down to base proteins, and “Branding Solutions”, a firm that specializes in marketing and web design for small businesses.

In the final round, the contestants were given ten minutes to pitch their idea, and five minutes dedicated to allowing the judges to ask questions about the complexities of the student’s ideas.

Roger Haubold, creator of “Bucket-rete” and original founder of the Topeka store Grooveshack, looked forward to pitching his idea, and even had a prototype to show the judges.

“I’m excited, it’s really a great opportunity, presenting in front of an audience, more than anything I’m excited for this experience.” Said Haubold.

“The judges have got more of an opportunity now to investigate a little further, so the students will have to be on top of it more in this round, because they’re competing for the money now,” said Price.

“Night Terrors”, creator Zach Haney pitched his idea so well that judge Jason Pickerell, President of Equity Bank’s Topeka market, announced funding on the spot immediately following Haney’s pitch.

The finalists who did not finish first, second, or third were each awarded a check for $250 to help bring their idea to life, which included “Syllabot”, “NanLife”, and “Branding Solutions”.

In third place was “rOS”, created by the team of Kaleb Marconette and Jacob Byrd, who were awarded a check for $500, and $1500 in reimbursable professional expenses to hire help for their idea. “Bucket-rete” finished second, and creator Roger Haubold was awarded a check for $750, and $3000 in professional expenses.

First place went to “Night Terrors”, and creator Zach Haney was awarded a check for $1000, and $4500 in professional expenses.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Haney. “I heard about this over the summer, I had this idea for an app, but I thought a haunted house [would be] unique to Topeka.”

Price believes that the Elevator Pitch Competition will help to inspire students from all majors to take a look at entrepreneurship, for which Washburn students from all majors can receive a certificate for, starting in fall 2015.

“With entrepreneurship, it’s the fastest growing major or discipline in universities. There seems to be this buzz around the students interested in it, so it’s not surprising there’s some good response.”

The Business School plans to continue to host the Elevator Pitch Competition annually from now on. Go Topeka, who provided twelve thousand dollars for prize money in partnership with the Business School, “are keen to do it next year.” said Price.

Sign-ups will be available to students interested in the competition next year.