For Farmer School students, the entrepreneurship capstone New Ventures is an opportunity to spend a semester developing and testing a business idea, then bringing it before a panel of business experts to compete against their classmates to determine which ideas are best.
For Bill Baumel, managing director of the Ohio Innovation Fund, the Venture Pitch Competition was another kind of opportunity. “We're here to provide that real-world feedback and support so that the students know that, “OK, this matters and there are opportunities here in Ohio to do this, to start a company and get seed funding and get series A funding.”
“We have a lot of Miami University students as interns in our companies -- we have 20 startups in Ohio. So what's very important for me is keeping that passion, enthusiasm, and training going because they're a key part of making our startups successful and grow,” he said. “They might eventually start companies themselves that we can invest in to help become major companies.”
16 teams competed in the initial round to get down to four, who made their presentations again in front of all the judges and participants.
- Capp-In, a pocket to attach inside of hats, earned first place for team members Whitley Calder, Anna Gioia, Emily Rake, Greg Sedlack, and Ashley Underwood.
- Second place went to Capital Companion, an app for helping teach important financial knowledge, was created by Allie Pakulski, Madison Shumate, Ross Ziegler, and Andre Zimmerman.
- Third-place DragonHide, developed by Christian Cantu, Cece Fulgenzi, Quinn Kissell, Olivia Skala, and Jack Youngs, is a garment worn under firefighter turnout gear to protect firefighters from the chemicals that can leech out of the gear into their skin.
- MedAdhere, designed to help ensure that patients take their medications, took fourth place for developers Zach Bennison, Ryan Owendoff, Austin Perry, and Stephen Shupe.
“I thought it was a great experience. I thought it was fun to get to pitch a startup and be able to build it from the ground up,” Calder said. “Working with my team was a really cool experience. At the beginning, we were thinking about luggage, and we worked the concept all the way to hat inserts. So it was really cool to see the evolution of our project.”
“I think something that the program really presses on you is getting out of your comfort zone. Obviously it's not necessarily in our wheelhouse to speak to an auditorium of hundreds of people,” Ziegler said. “So getting real experience in front of real investors is invaluable. It pushes me to think outside of the box and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
“What Miami's done with the entrepreneurship program really imparts the ability to have real world experience to the students, and that experience is just so invaluable because there aren't many other universities I know of that are really putting true investors in the room, true mentors in the room, people that have been through the ringer in the real world,” event judge and chief strategy officer at ScorecardVC Summer Crenshaw said. “I think this is a critical part of making such well-rounded graduates from the university, and it's going to hopefully put out more amazing individuals in our workforce and bring awesome companies to light.”