Wolff Center Students Test the Waters in National Competitions
Students from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the C.T. Bauer College of Business delivered winning pitches in two national venture capital competitions, proving their might as potential entrepreneurs.
Andrew Jobe and James Wilson won first place in the University of Nebraska’s 23rd Annual New Ventures World Competition and placed second in The Evansville New Venture Creation Competition at the University of Evansville, Indiana for their business, Satellite Connect. Their business offers X2, a user-friendly, modularly build device that allows real-time, high-quality video, audio, and data communications from remote locations throughout the world without the need of established infrastructure.
Both contests attract business students across the states who have big ideas and want to compete for seed money to get them off the ground. For Jobe and Wilson, the competition had less to do with the prize and more with testing their concept.
“As a company, it proves whether you have a viable product to take to market,” says Jobe. “Up until this point, we’ve only pitched the idea to people we know. Having a third party endorse our concept is important because it shows there is a potential demand.”
Contestants had to present a written business plan, formally pitch their idea to a panel of judges and answer tough questions on the fly. The process replicated what Jobe and Wilson have been doing in their WCE studies.
“The program laid the entire framework for how to secure capital for a start-up,” said Jobe.
Wilson said this put them at an advantage, “We definitely had a much more in-depth education than many of our competitors. Not only does the WCE prepare you for writing and presenting, it teaches you how to interact with others on a professional level.”
“What most people don’t realize is you are not just selling your concept, you are selling yourself. Investors must have confidence in your ability to get things done before they will trust you with their money,” he says. “A lot of young entrepreneurs fall down because they think a great idea is enough to stand on its own.”
Jobe and Wilson began working on their plan nearly a year out of the competitions. It started when they met an inventor with patented communications technology he had not yet brought to market.
“The idea really took off though after we spoke to first-responders and offshore oil and gas workers who verified a need for this type of technology,” says Jobe. “The next several months were spent studying the market and analyzing potential risks.”
Wilson says their professors mentored them as they put their plan on paper, helping them at each benchmark.
“We would write a section and get feedback on it, then go back and rewrite the whole thing. Our professors were really honest with us, which we appreciated. They cut us to shreds – but in a good way,” he says.
Jobe and Wilson graduate this year and are charting their next entrepreneurial move.
“No matter what we decide,” says Jobe, “This experience has given us a chance to test the waters and given us the confidence we will need when the stakes are higher.”
By Lori Reichardt