Referred to as the “Super Bowl of world business plan competitions” by BusinessWeek, the Venture Labs Investment Competition (VLIC) is one of the most renowned hands-on entrepreneurial opportunities in the business school world; and it all began at McCombs. Since 1984 McCombs has hosted teams from around the world to compete for capital to launch their business ventures. However, in order to make it to the Global Competition each year in May, teams must present their business plan in front of numerous judges in preliminary competition rounds to advance past other entrepreneurial hopefuls.
February 1 marked the Texas VLIC Semifinal Round at McCombs, in which sixteen teams competed and four advanced. Last Wednesday, February 15, McCombs held the 2012 Texas Competition to determine the one team who would advance to the Global Competition. The final four teams faced a tough panel of judges made up of Texas VLIC alumni who have gone on to pursue their ventures.
Participating in Texas VLIC is a great way for students to understand what it takes to raise money for their business from investors. According to Rob Adams, Director of the Venture Labs Investment Competition,
“The competition benefits all participants regardless of where they finish because they get hands on experience of what it’s like to raise money. All the companies this year will raise money if they’re persistent about it. The judges all came through this competition, raised money and are now coaching these teams on what it takes. McCombs and the Venture Labs Investment Competition have become an integral part of Austin’s start-up eco-system and have earned the reputation as the launching pad for lots of great companies.”
This year’s final four teams included Embarkly (a solution for the pet boarding industry); eyeQ (a solution for monitoring consumer purchasing behavior); Athena Laboratories (a medical device company with new laser technology); and Simple Invest (a cloud-based investment solution). Each team had 35 minutes to present their plan and address questions from the judges. Then it was up to the panel to deliberate. The judges function as an investment group seeking to reach consensus on the business venture they would most likely fund. They base their decision on the quality of the idea, the strength of the management team and the clarity and persuasiveness of the written plan and oral presentation. The team they decided on, and who will advance to the Global Competition in May, was eyeQ.
The eyeQ team included Michael Garel and Harish Jayakumar, both Executive MBA students in the Class of 2012. Their venture provides retailers the ability to monitor consumer purchasing behavior, generate retail business intelligence and influence consumer purchasing at the shelf. The eyeQ solution utilizes algorithms based on video analytics to create consumer data for the retailer and provide the customer with a content rich buying experience. Harish discussed the importance of the victory: “The competition helped us confirm that the work we have done so far is good and that we have a solid plan to go do this. The enthusiasm from the judges, their feedback and just presenting to them gave us much more confidence and belief in ourselves and our product.” Added Michael, “Winning TVLIC enforces the need for this technology and provides credibility to our plan. We hope for big things to come for eyeQ in the future!”
The Texas VLIC is open to the public and among this year’s audience was Executive MBA Program Director Dr. John Burrows:
“I could not be more proud and excited for Michael and Harish and the potential for their company, eyeQ. Competing in the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition is a rigorous process and it is rewarding to watch our Executive MBAs leverage some of the incredible opportunities we have at McCombs. The work they have ahead to prepare for the Global competition will undoubtedly continue their growth and I wish them the best for continued success.”
What’s ahead for Michael and Harish? Competing in the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition and the Austin Technology Incubator Launch Package featuring the opportunity for a one-year membership which includes strategic business consulting services and mentoring from a team of industry experts, office space, and access to discounted legal, accounting, and businesses services from top tier providers. No pressure, right? Michael explains, “Going into the Global Competition, we will continue to research and develop our plan and pitch to cover feedback the judges highlighted to us.”
We wish them the best as they move forward in the competition and encourage you to check out the 2012 Global VLIC at UT Austin on May 2 – 5.