The Maneater

MU students pitch business ideas, compete for money in Entrepreneur Quest program

The competition set-up is similar to Shark Tank.

MU hosted the inaugural competition in the Entrepreneur Quest Student Accelerator program Monday.

The program, which is conducted across the UM System, was designed to foster students’ entrepreneurial spirits and draw more like minded students into the system.

The event featured 15 student teams, each vying for the opportunity to expand their business ideas. Out of the 15, only 10 will advance into the next stage of competition, which occurs in January.

Each team was required to present a pitch detailing their business idea and why it would be worth the investment. The pitches could not exceed four minutes and after each pitch the judging panel was allowed two minutes to ask any questions they had.

“Our intent is that those 10 teams actually go from ideas to LLCs and companies,” Greg Bier, director of MU’s Entrepreneurship Alliance, said. “That they become detailed pitches ready to pitch again in March.”

The student teams were judged by an experienced panel of MU grads, each of whom either had their own businesses or had previously worked as an entrepreneur on start-ups. Additionally, the audience was asked to vote on which pitch they thought was best.

Bier said the audience’s favorite will then receive a $500 cash prize.

The pitches presented varied drastically. Many were online-based, digital platforms, but others, such as Calving Technologies LLC by MU senior Libby Martin, were physical items they hoped to market to specific demographics.

Martin said she had worked with researchers to develop a cow collar to track feed intake, activity levels, body temperature and position of the cow relative to the rest of the herd. The idea is to minimize fatalities when a cow goes into labor.

“It’s our mission to provide producers with affordable and durable technology that will decrease calving mortality rates and increase producer profits,” Martin said. “There are physiological changes that occur right before a cow goes into first phase calving. If we can track those, we can solve the issue [of calving deaths].”

Others marketed their pitches as experiences rather than objects. MU senior Nicholas DeLoach presented ProActive Escape, an escape room concept designed to train people how to respond in different emergency situations.

“You don’t rise to the occasion, you default to your training,” DeLoach said. “But what happens if you don’t have that training? [At ProActive Escape] you’re trained on things from natural disasters, vehicular incidents and emergency medical situations.”

At the conclusion of the final pitch, Bier informed the students that they would receive an email within 24 hours that would tell them if they were one of the 10 to move onto the next stage.

Those chosen will participate in an eight week program in January to perfect their pitches. At the conclusion of the program, they will present their final pitch.

Three finalists will be chosen from each campus. First place will receive $15,000, second $10,000 and third $5,000.

“We have some real prize money coming in the spring,” Bill Turpin, director of the Missouri Innovation Center said. “We have $30,000 per campus and $30,000 at the system level. It’s a big investment President Choi and others are making into this program.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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