Venture Pitch Competition caps semester-long search for business ideas

December 2018

Jay Murdock

Fifty Miami University students from some 25 majors form 12 teams to make presentations to more than 40 entrepreneurial leaders, funders, and founders. It’s not the punch line to a joke or a math problem -- it’s the Venture Pitch Competition.

As part of the New Venture Creation capstone course, students work in small startup teams to tackle a real market problem or opportunity, identify and size up the market, identify key features of a solution, develop a customer acquisition strategy, develop a launch plan that establishes and scales a viable business around the product or service, and project future revenues and financial capital requirements for the startup business, all in a 14-week period.

“It was an awesome experience to get to work alongside everyone involved through the semester. We pushed our limits and knowledge and gained more along the way,” junior marketing major Rob Green noted. His team’s product, CloudCard, a data analytics platform that takes on the $149 billion gift card market by enabling users to digitize their plastic gift cards as well as buy, sell, and exchange gift cards, finished second in the competition. Cameron Mogk, Theodore Muschany, Giselle Liu, and Hairong Zhang were the other members of the team.

First place went to Christie Currie, Racquel Graffeo, Evelyn Jackson, Richard Van de Berghe, and Ciana Walker for their idea, Zandaland, a web-accessible application designed to help pediatric cancer patients between the ages of four and 10. Currie drew upon her own experiences as a child cancer survivor to help develop the app.

“My team and I showed how the power of a personal story and mission can lead to a needle-shifting solution. When kids get the resources they need to cope, they can have a more positive outlook and trust the process. They can learn to make lemonade out of lemons," Currie said. “This is what happens when passion, creativity, and four years of unyielding determination come together.”

Rounding out the top three was Self Rent, a platform designed to help owners and renters to meet and feel confident about the rental process. The idea was pitched by Nathan Anderson, Conor Burns, Nathan Calem, and John Huffman.

Judges said they were glad to have the opportunity to teach as well as learn from the students in the competition. “It was a fantastic experience as an alum to learn from students what resonates with them,” former BlackRock COO of global technology and operations Lisa Dallmer said. “It was also a chance to share my career insights: ask for what you want and you will learn more if you surround yourself with people who are different than you.”

“I was very impressed with the student presentations - lots of confidence, great job standing up to tough questions and some clever business ideas,” Sekur X founder and CEO AJ Auld remarked. “Also, an exceptional job of bringing together a broad spectrum of business professionals to provide insight to students. I am very proud of the Miami Entrepreneurship program.”

Students make their pitch before judges Winning venture pitch team Zandaland group photo Second place venture pitch team CloudCard group photo Third place venture pitch team Self Rent group photo Group photo of participants and judges at Venture Pitch Competition