Standing in front of a row of judges at the University at Albany, Steven Williamson began his pitch: an app-based subscription service for exotic cars.

A wealthy car enthusiast in New York City may want the enjoyment and status of driving a fancy car without the necessary upkeep and parking, Williamson said. Using his app, they could select a car from a variety of upscale vehicles and a time frame they wanted to use it for. Williamson's company, Enthusiast Connection, would drop the car off at their home.

The company would also handle maintenance and storage, and users would pay a monthly membership fee of $12,000.

"The exotic car market is growing," Williamson, a senior, said. "People are more interested in experience, not ownership."

After the pitch, he took questions from judges, who asked how Williamson would raise the capital to buy cars, why he wants to launch the app in New York City and how he plans to prevent users from abusing the system and requesting a new car every day.

"It seems like you've got a chicken and egg problem," one judge noted. "You need cars to get people to subscribe."

Williamson was among roughly 90 students who pitched their ideas Friday in front of business leaders during the school's third annual Innovation Competition. The event was hosted by Blackstone LaunchPad, an entrepreneurship program, at the Massry Center for Business. The program, an initiative of private equity firm Blackstone Group's charitable foundation, helps connect students with mentorship and networking opportunities and get their business off the ground.

After presenting their ideas during the first round, students answer judges' questions and listen to their feedback. The pool of judges included people working in healthcare, wealth management, academia, law and consulting at companies such as Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, Northwestern Mutual, EmblemHealth and Schwartz Heslin Group.

Judges evaluate participants based on factors like whether they outlined a target market, sales approach and growth strategy and how unique or creative their idea was. They then select the winners in each of five categories. Participants in the initial Shark Tank-style round won more than $7,500 in prizes.

A team of three students explained their idea for an app that would combine ordering food and making reservations at a restaurant. When people arrived at the restaurant, their food would be waiting for them.

"We want to make the restaurant industry more efficient and timely," said Aaron Toporovsky, one of the three.

Judges asked how the app would work and how they'd make a profit.

"You're trusting someone who makes a reservation to show up at the right time," said judge Matt Gratton of Innovation 518. "As a restaurant owner, I wouldn't trust that."

In the final round, the top three winning businesses get $5,000 cash and more than $25,000 worth of in-kind services, $2,000 cash and more than $5,000 worth of in-kind services and $1,000 cash and $2,000 worth of in-kind services, respectively. RiboDynamics, which developed a kit to test for mastitis in dairy cows, placed first, NutMeg's, a flavored peanut butter producer, won second and the Starving Artists, which proposed a loft space for creative types, placed third.

The competition is aimed at preparing students for real-world experiences, said Jan Woodcock, executive director of UAlbany's Blackstone LaunchPad.

"It helps students prepare their business venture and then actually pitch it to judges," he said. "Our mission is to help students know entrepreneurship can be a career."

Some students will move forward with their business venture, while others may go back to the drawing board, Woodcock said.

"But this kind of experience is valuable in any career," he added.

 

This article is taken in full from Times Union, click here to see original article. 

Upcoming Innovation Competition - April 20th, 2018

The Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany is pleased to announce this year’s Innovation Competition. Winners will receive prize money for their startup business. Last year over 60 student teams entered from many different majors. The pitches generated a lot of excitement and interest from the university, community, businesses, judges, etc.  Participating students learned a great deal from how to make a pitch in minutes to handling a Shark Tank environment with questioning judges.  The counsel and coaching through the whole process is invaluable.

COMPETITON

The Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany Innovation Competition consists of two stages: Domain Specific Pitch and Final Pitch.  At the first stage teams will compete within an Academic Area as defined in the chart above.  For the Final Pitch, the top winning teams from the Domain Specific will compete against each other. 

HOW TO ENTER

The following are the key dates for this Competition:  UPDATED TIMING & STRUCTURE

1.       Apply! Application deadline is April 10th, 2018

a.       Fill out the following Google Form

 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdv2iCXqQmpEnxzZ3g9y6SzsAmTYTMMmuvM8WUX2pNgJu8eMg/viewform

Selections will be made April 13th, 2017.

2.       Email draft Business Plan Pitch Presentation by April 18th, 2017:

a.       Selected entries must email their draft Business Plan Presentation (PowerPoint) including the following example components to LaunchPad@albany.edu :

b.       See Business Plan Sections & Questions to Consider below.  Business Plan Pitch should include (but it is your decision) Company Information/Organization, Problem Statement, Products/Services, Target Market, Competitors, Marketing/Advertising/Sales Channel Plan, Financial Plan (spreadsheet should be embedded in PowerPoint document).

3.       Innovation Competition is April 20th, 2018, Round 1 starts at 9 AM:

a.        The first round pitch will be a ten-minute pitch to judges comprised of entrepreneurs and venture managers with a five-minute question period. Awards will be made that day.

b.       Slide deck must be submitted to LaunchPad@albany.edu no later than April 18th, 2017 in pdf format.

4.       April 20th, 2017 University-wide Final Pitch is at 12 PM:

a.       This Final Pitch will consist of the winners from the above Domain Specific Pitches.  It also will be the 10- minute pitch to a panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs and venture managers with a five-minute question period. Awards will be made that day.

b.       Slide deck must be submitted no later than April 18th, 2018 in pdf format.

Categories

This year we are looking again for venture/startup ideas, products or services. This is an opportunity to pitch your venture idea and win prizes to support your startup. Students from all University disciplines/departments are invited to participate, and any student may submit a proposal under any area.  The proposals can include these categorized by the following Domain Specific Areas:

Information Technology/Software

Social Entrepreneurship/ Non-Profit

Advanced Technology

Products/ Services

Information Technology/Software

Any idea, technology, product, and/or service that relates to apps, informational technology, software, and/or internet applications in for profit enterprises.  If the value that your idea or technology provided lies in the creation of or is delivered through an app, then you belong in this category.

  • Examples: An app that helps pairs potential roommates, a website/app that uses social media to collect payments from friends, a web service designed to tailor resumes for specific jobs, a file sharing service, an app or website that aggregates data and reviews about solar panel installers.

Social Entrepreneurship/Non-Profit

Any idea, product, and/or service that addresses a social need, for which profit is not the primary motivation, or provides a product/service for nonprofits. If formed, the venture would be either a Benefit corporation or be eligible for 501(c) status.

  • Examples: Selling a good or service that raises awareness and donates significant portion of the revenues to a cause, organization that provides financial literacy training, cooperative non-profit coffee shop, bike trail, a website to connect community members with volunteer opportunities.

Advanced Technology

Any idea, technology, product, and/or service that relates to materials science, life science, advanced hardware, semiconductors, optics, and/or electronics applications that are not applicable to Clean technology. These products and processes have been likely developed after years of laboratory research and have patent protection.

  • Examples: High-performance skis coated with nanomaterial, vibration detector, new method for testing pharmaceuticals, physical therapy massager.

Products/Services

Product: Any physical, tangible goods offered for sale.

  • Examples: Custom designer eyewear, vending machine, protein shakes, craft beer or alcoholic beverages, innovative water bottle, locally sourced tea, camera backpack.

Services: A value add process for delivering products of fulfilling customer needs.

  • Examples: Lice removal company, meal delivery, custom clothing design, custom song writing service.

Each team will have 10 minutes to pitch, which will be followed by 5 minutes of Q&A with the panel of judges. Judges are advised to act as they would in a closed-door boardroom investment presentation during the Q&A session.

PRIZES

Winners will receive prize money and services for their startup business expenses. These will be awarded at both competition stages. A total of $20,000 in cash and prizes will be awarded. 

WHY COMPETE

This is a great way to learn about becoming an entrepreneur and receiving free assistance.  The Competitions are an opportunity to pitch your startup to industry experts. It will be fun and educational. There are prizes for all participants! If you have a startup or an idea for a business, this is your opportunity. You should enter if you:

Have an idea for a new venture, product or service

Have an idea that you are passionate about

Are able to articulate the idea in an Executive Summary

Need help developing the idea or business model plan

Have a business plan

Are willing to work with a mentor/coach

Can work on a team

Receive immediate feedback from Pitch Judges

APPLICATION

Fill out the following Google Form

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdv2iCXqQmpEnxzZ3g9y6SzsAmTYTMMmuvM8WUX2pNgJu8eMg/viewform

RULES

Any student can apply from any academic area. The Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany Innovation Competition reserves the right to withhold prize money and/or in-kind services from winning teams who do not comply with the eligibility requirements. Prize money is for the entered venture’s business expenses.  In order to be eligible to apply for and participate in the competition, all teams must meet the following criteria

·       Teams must consist of currently enrolled University at Albany undergraduate or graduate students.  Students will be registered in Blackstone LaunchPad

·       Students may not participate on more than one team.

·       Student entrepreneur teams are required.  Single students should talk with a Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany staff for guidance on creating a team. 

·       Student entrepreneurs must meet with Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany staff prior to submitting their Business Plan.

·       A Blackstone LaunchPad at UAlbany mentor will coach for each team, offering guidance, support, and technical expertise.

·       Cumulative public and private capital raised may not exceed $100,000. 

·       Full studentship ownership of venture must be 100%, but does not have to be incorporated or registered.

WHAT TO SUBMIT AND WHEN

Below are the key Competition dates.  Please remember to back up your work.

1.       By April 10th, 2017: Fill out the following Google Form

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdv2iCXqQmpEnxzZ3g9y6SzsAmTYTMMmuvM8WUX2pNgJu8eMg/viewform

2.       By April 18th, 2017: Selected entries must email their Business Plan Presentation, including the most of following components:

a.       See template requirements for Value Proposition, Company Information/Organization, Products/Services, Target market, Competitors, Marketing/Advertising/Sales Channel Plan, Financial Pan (spreadsheet).

b.       Final slide deck must be submitted to LaunchPad@albany.edu in pdf format.

3.       April 20th, 2018 the Domain Specific Pitch (first half of day)

4.       April 20th, 2018 Final Round Pitch

a.       Slide deck must be submitted no later than April 18th, 2017 (Same slide deck as Domain Specific).

The individual/team will decide under which Domain Specific Area their Executive Summary will be submitted. For example, an art student may have an idea for an art related service or product that requires technology, education or another discipline’s tool or skill. Students are invited to attend the Business Plan Development Series offered Blackstone LaunchPad UAlbany during the semester. Mentoring and other support will be available to help students create their business plans. Students will have a chance to refine their business plans between the two stages of competition.

JUDGING CRITERIA

Judging will be based initially on the Executive Summary, the Business Model Canvass and the Business Plan.  The Pitches will be evaluated by the judges.  Judging criteria include:

(1.) Completion of the items submitted;

(2.) Clarity of the Executive Summary in presenting the idea for a product or service;

(3.) Completeness of the Business Model Canvass and Quality of Business Plan content, format, fiscal and revenue plans, marketing plan including: innovativeness of plan, feasibility of getting product to market, evidence of customer demand for product and likelihood of attracting investors; and

(4.) Pitch, a clear, concise, effective overview of the venture, product or service, and the ability to succinctly respond to judges’ inquiries and give substantive answers.

For any questions, please reach out to:

Blackstone LaunchPad at University at Albany Staff

Email: LaunchPad@Albany.edu.

Pitch Please Event 2018

Blackstone LaunchPad at SUNY Albany hosted an innovation pitch and networking event on Tuesday, February 13th. Numerous established companies and ventures came out to hear student groups pitch their innovative ideas. Students were able to receive feedback from different professionals in various fields such as Jerry Golub, the Vice Chairman of Price Chopper, Gary Goldstein, the Director of EmblemHealth Dental Program, and David Siegfeld, Partner at Ganz Wolkenbreit & Seigfeld LLC. Each student group was given five minutes to deliver their pitches and an additional five minutes were granted for Q&A afterwards. 

Once all the student groups presented and received their feedback, students and professionals were able to network and connect for about an hour before the evening was brought to a close. Blackstone Launchpad at SUNY Albany has had success in the past with similar events that they’ve hosted and have a innovation competition event coming up in April.

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We want to thank all of the student groups and the professional mentors that took time to come out and participate. 

Mentors: Stephen Hartmann, David Siegfeld, Dan Finkle, Neil Packer, Jerry Golub, and Gary Goldstein.

Student Groups: Classmates, MASH Co., NutMeg's PB, RiboDynamics, Sweat-Teach, Verified Lifeguards, Campus Pro, Toasty Naturals, and Polis.  

Stories for Impact

  TROY INNOVATION GARAGE

TROY INNOVATION GARAGE

Come and flex your influence muscles before your work day begins.

Influence is one of the most important skills you can develop as an entrepreneur, leader, or change maker, and this workshop is designed to help you hone one of the most powerful skills of influence: storytelling.

Your ability to tell an influential story could be the key to elevating you and your contributions to the next level.

Join Kara Davidson, co-founder of wolf & heron and the Cairn Concept, for a one hour workshop experience that will allow you to: 
Explore the science of influence and storytelling. 
Discover the super powers needed to transform an anecdote into a tool for influence.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/stories-for-impact-the-super-powers-of-an-influential-storyteller-tickets-32921948434 

Spring Into Health and Wellness Fair

  TROY INNOVATION GARAGE

TROY INNOVATION GARAGE

          25+ outstanding businesses! Sample delicious food and drink! Healing Touch, Shiatsu, physical therapy, and massage practitioners available for mini-sessions! Learn about nutrition trends; essential oils for the home; meditation; holistic pharmacy; Troy food tours! Bring home air cleaning plants! Meet farmers growing organic produce and free-range meats! And lots more to learn about and enjoy! No cost parking across from the event in the Uncle Sam Garage 5PM on. Open to the public! See you there! Sponsored by Grow Your Seasons—Unique Marketing for Your Food Venture

For more information click here

Business Start-Up Competition 2017

          Last year over 60 student teams entered from many different majors. The pitches generated a lot of excitement and interest from the university, community, businesses, judges, etc. Participating students learned a great deal from how to make a pitch in minutes to handling a Sharktank environment with questioning judges’. The counsel and coaching through the whole process was invaluable.

          This year we are looking again for venture/startup ideas, products or services. This is an opportunity to pitch your venture idea and win prizes to support your startup. Students from all University disciplines/departments are invited to participate and any student may submit a proposal under any area.

More information on the competition here.