"I think the staff, the faculty, the vision of the Miami Entrepreneurship program is unmatched. And I don't mean that in Ohio or regionally. I mean period."
Luke Dooley isn’t shy about his support for the John W. Altman Institute for Entrepreneurship. The OCEAN Programs CEO’s trip up from Cincinnati for the New Venture Capstone and RedHawk Venture Pitch Competition was, by his count, the fifth or sixth time he’d watched Miami and Farmer School students present their ideas for new products or services.
“I think these folks are just at the top of their game and they care so deeply about students. And I think you see it in a room like this when you see the number of recurring faces that are here over and over and over again,” he said, referring to the judges for the event. “Miami doesn't struggle to get people to come back out here because people know the value that both it delivers and that it brings.”
It was the first time to the venture pitch competition for Elizabeth Edwards. But it wasn’t the first trip to Farmer for the managing partner of H Venture Partners. “What brings me back is the incredible quality of the students. We have had Miami interns every year that we've been in business,” she said. “We've had interns from Harvard, Wharton, Ohio State, many universities, but the Miami students are just absolutely the best.”
For most of the participants, the competition was the final event of a semester-long class, ESP 401: New Ventures, which takes a practice-based, immersive approach to give students from across Miami first-hand experience in creating a startup company.
“The whole class from start to finish really takes you through what it's like to actually go through and try to solve a problem. In the beginning, we didn't even know what our initial problem was going to be, and researching different problems really helped us to find one that we really connected with,” senior Madelyn Deister said. “And then going through more research and finding out where the customer pain points actually are within that problem really helped us to develop a solution.”
“The last two weeks, I think we've really lived this experience, and it's just cool seeing it to come to fruition and then being able to see other people see the validation in it, too,” senior Abby Zielsdorf said.
Zielsdorf and her teammates Amber Peskin, Samuel George, Dylan Brown Limjuco, Quinn Mcclamroch, and Peter Blau took third place with their idea for HiveMind, an app designed to help people take their medications on time with the help of supporters.
Second place went to Poda Baby, Olivia Nash, Jimmy Sikorsky, Katya Yudushkin, Carissa Ott, and Meredith Lombardi’s concept for a completely plastics-free baby bottle.
Emil Barr's FlashPass, an online continually-updated teaching system for social media marketing aimed at higher education, was awarded first place.
Students said they appreciated the various ways that being part of the class and competition helped them grow.
“We've had this idea of what it would be to start a company, but once we've heard so many different speakers come to our class and see what they were looking for, what should be in the pitch deck, what you should touch on and what the next step and what the market is looking for within funding startups, I think, was probably the most important thing that we would've probably missed if we weren't going through this experience,” senior Luke Reifsnyder said.
"I feel like coming into Miami, I was a pretty nervous person. Even in my internship last summer, I wasn't able to kind of grow out of my shell. Throughout this whole course, and especially tonight, I was very nervous coming into it,” senior Rahul Choudhary said. “But when I was actually in front of the judges, in front of the venture capitalists, I feel like I was able to come out of my shell and present how I envisioned I'd want to.”
“I appreciate the real world connections that we're making and it's really exciting that this could be a possibility for us to start this company,” Brynn Gage said. “I'm really grateful for the entire experience.”
For Dooley and Edwards, the night further strengthened their opinions of the entrepreneurship program and its students. “I think what was really represented here today is combining design creativity, with product development, finance, marketing, supply chain. They've just really created a wonderful capstone,” Edwards said. The students are really at a level that I see every day, similar to pitches from people that have had 10, 20 years in the industry. So I think that says a lot about the quality of the students.”
“I thought the pitches were really well prepared. I thought from a sheer presentation standpoint, the ability to have presence in a room, have coherent thought, make a logical argument kind of from start to finish, slides and decks that made sense, with supporting facts, figures, detail, and data, is impressive,” Dooley said. “You can see that four years of immersive learning really makes a difference. I don't know that these students fully know how far ahead they are of most students their age.”