To provide a unique competitive experience for undergraduate entrepreneurs by creating an opportunity for students to gain tangible business experience and exercise ethical business leadership through the establishment of on-campus ventures that address unmet student needs.
Through this competition, students will have the opportunity to develop an original, creative, and innovative business concept that will be a significant contribution to campus life. Along with the experience of running their own businesses, selected student teams will receive start up-seed money, compensation, support and resources from the Dean of Students office. The winning team will also receive the exclusive rights to operate on campus. All the while, members of the Vanderbilt community will be better served on campus by the product or service provided by the Vanderbilt Ventures Program.
All University undergraduate students are eligible to participate. Students must form teams of 2-5 students. Students are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from a faculty advisor that provides support and guides the team throughout the course of the competition. Participants may also reach out to Vanderbilt Ventures and request to be connected to a faculty member for mentorship, sponsorship, and/or support.
Innovative ideas and concepts will need to be focused on addressing unmet student needs on campus.
The competition will be judged utilizing Vanderbilt Ventures evaluation criteria. A panel of judges will be comprised of University faculty, local entrepreneurs and business owners. We will utilize our relationship with the Career Center, Alumni Relations, Owen School, and Vanderbilt faculty to assemble a strong panel of judges.
Students will submit all requested materials/questions to the Vanderbilt Ventures chair, Blake Walden for the duration of this competition.
Vanderbilt Ventures Timeline : 2012-2013
Monday, November 12: 11:59 pm
Business plans due
Monday, November 19th
Finalists will have until Friday October 30 to finalize and prepare presentations
Tuesday, December 4th
Formal team presentations for the final teams will take place in Rand 308
*Teams are encouraged to have a faculty advisor during the process. Feel free to choose your own, or a list of faculty members who would be willing to meet and review your project the week of November 5th-9th will be posted by the end of this week.
Vanderbilt Ventures will look at the business plan, participate in the presentation and consider the following issues in determining which business plans will be selected as the winner. The normal operation of this business must also not be in conflict with the Student Handbook or policies governing the University.
- The business must be operated exclusively by current Vanderbilt undergraduate students.
- Is the product/service one that will be of interest to students or satisfy a need/market on campus?
- Is the product or service currently available on campus? If so, would the business violate an existing agreement between the University and an auxiliary enterprise?
- Does the business require use of a storefront?
- Will the business be disruptive to residential living or compromise the mission of the University?
- Will the business place extraordinary costs on the University? (Higher utility bills, additional maintenance, increased housekeeping services, etc.)
- Will the business operate year-round or only during the school year?
- Is the business prepared to transfer its operation to other undergraduate students upon the founding team’s graduation?
Vanderbilt Ventures Judging Criteria: 2012-2013
The Competition is about assessing the on-campus “commercial merit and potential viability” of each proposed new venture. The judges will evaluate its potential for economic success and the likelihood of achieving that success based upon the team’s plan, experience, and the validation of key assumptions and a clear and convincing presentation of the following:
- Product/Service (what it is, why it’s distinctive)
- Team (breadth/depth of skills; ability to execute, succession plan)
- Opportunity (campus size/need, ability to penetrate, strong value proposition & business model)
- Context (competitive landscape/advantage)
- Risk/Reward (ways to manage upside/downside; favorable ratio)
- Structured Experimentation (market validation of value proposition/growth hypothesis)
- Financial (realistic assumptions underlying income statement, balance sheet, cash flow; anticipated financial results)
- Execution (defined milestones, ability to source financing if necessary (other than those provided by Vanderbilt)
Naturally, the more concrete the plan-all else being equal-the better. The learning experience and process of defining a strong idea and business model, testing one’s assumptions, and making a compelling pitch about the viability of a new venture will be invaluable for everyone, no matter what the outcome.
Judges will make distinctions based upon the potential of the business to create value and increase campus life, although they will be explicitly instructed that they must not choose a winner unless a winner seems fit. We wish to preserve the opportunity for a small scale, “boot-strapped venture,” which might not require much capital, and thus, would typically be uninteresting to a traditional venture fund.
If a winner is selected, that business would have available $10,000 to start an on-campus business venture. This business would be owned by Vanderbilt, yet operated by students. Students operating the business will earn wages commensurate with the success of the business, as determined by the business in consultation with the University. The business must remain profitable or will not necessarily be allowed to continue operations in the future.
Vanderbilt Ventures teams will be granted exclusive membership to this platform, thus allowing their venture to gain possible support and funds.
SeedInvest is an online, equity crowdfunding platform that empowers entrepreneurs to raise capital from friends, family, customers and the crowd. Enabled by the passage of the JOBS Act in April 2012, SeedInvest will make it possible for individuals to invest equity in startups and small businesses starting January 1st 2013.
Access to capital has long been the biggest obstacle for small businesses and startups, and the team at SeedInvest believes that talented entrepreneurs with incredible ideas should not be deterred simply because they do not have ready access to funding.
SeedInvest hopes that by building a community of outstanding entrepreneurs and individual investors, to help more amazing companies succeed and see them shape, transform, and impact the world around us.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: Who can enter the Vanderbilt Ventures Competition?
A: Anyone who is part of a team with one current Vanderbilt University undergraduate student. The student can be enrolled in any school within Vanderbilt, but must be enrolled as a student at the time of the submission deadline.
Q: Do I own the business?
A: The businesses operating within Vanderbilt Ventures are owned by the University. However, you will manage and operate the business just as if you are the owner. You will be a paid employee and can receive additional compensation based on profitability and your corporate structure. It is important that each team have a succession plan so that your business can be passed on and operated by other undergraduate students upon your graduation.
Q: Is it important to be profitable?
A: Absolutely! Profitability is one of the keys to being selected as the winning business. The judges will evaluate you on a number of factors, and how profitable your business will be over time.
Q: Can I rely on University resources to carry out my business?
A: Yes and No. The University will provide you with accounting and related advisory support for your business, but the day to day operations must be carried out by students and not rely on University personnel or resources.
Q: If I’m going abroad (Spring 2012) can I still apply?
A. Yes, as long as there are two remaining team members on campus for the duration of the year so that your business can be prepared to launch no later than Fall, 2012.
Q: How do I find other students to help work on my business idea? Or, if I don’t have an idea, how do I find a team with an idea to join?
A: The best way to meet potential team members is to network or pitch your idea at the Vanderbilt Ventures Information session on Oct 2nd. Students may also seek advice from professors in the Managerial Studies department for potential suggestions or ideas.
Q: Should I seek faculty assistance?
A: ABSOLUTELY! In fact, it is looked upon favorably in the competition if you have consulted with faculty on your business plan. Every group should have at least one consultative visit with a Vanderbilt faculty member prior to their final business plan submission.
Q: Can I enter the same idea that I have used in the past?
A: You may submit any idea that you’ve previously developed for a class, project, or other competition.
Q: Can I get academic credit for working on my idea?
A: Academic credit is not a part of the Vanderbilt Ventures program at this time.
Q: Can I work by myself?
A: Businesses develop better when more people are involved with the idea. A minimum of two people are require for each team. We feel that your experience will be fuller, your ideas better, and your chance of winning greater.
Q: Can I be on more than one team?
A: You can be a member of as many teams as you would like, but such a situation may be viewed as a lack of commitment to making any one of the businesses a success. Usually, your efforts are best-spent making one entry as strong as possible.
Q: Can I fundraise during the competition if I need additional start-up capital?
A: Yes. Before soliciting any businesses, you must consult with Courtney Salters, located in Sarratt 207. There is an approved list that you can solicit from for gifts $1,000 or less. If you want to solicit businesses not on the list or for more than $1,000, Courtney will contact Development and Alumni Relations for approval. You are free to seek investments from friends and family (in the form of donations to the University) for your business should you be selected.
Q: How will my business plan be kept confidential?
A: As with most institutions, we do not sign non-disclosure agreements. We do intend to maintain confidentiality. However, please try to not include confidential material in your submission.
Q: I would like to serve as a mentor to one or more teams of students. Are there opportunities to do this?
A: YES. We are eagerly seeking mentors to provide advice and coaching to teams in all parts of the competition. Please contact Quincy Ross (Quincy.firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional inquiry
If you have any questions contact Vanderbilt Ventures chairperson Blake Walden at email@example.com.