Tobin Advances Start-Up Ventures

The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and the Office of Alumni Relations. hosted the Alumni Insider’s View: Business Plan Competition and Expo for undergraduate and graduate students of the University on April 21.

The competition offered grants ranging from $200 to $500 for honorable mentions, as well as $5,000, to a grand-prize winner.

University graduate student Alejandro Rojas was granted the grand-prize to start up his company, SwapMania, which he described as an online marketplace for college students.

The groups participating in the expo set up their presentations in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom where spectators were given play money to ‘invest’ in the company of their choice.

The top six finalists were presented in front of a panel of judges, consisting of alumni and an audience consisting of students, professors and other spectators.

The organizations were presented alone or in groups, with planned executive boards consisting of both enrolled students and members of the outside community.

Each of the six finalists were given 10 minutes to make his or her marketing pitch to the panel, outlining all the statistics and projections for the project.

Each group explained what the company mission, as well as how much it would cost to initially launch the project and how long it would be before it became profitable.

The groups also described what competitive advantages their particular companies had, what markets they would be targeting and where they would be located.

The judges then spent 10 minutes following each presentation asking the finalists questions and presenting hypothetical problems that might come up to see how thoroughly the students had prepared their presentations.

The students were asked to go into more details on product shelf life, quality versus distribution costs, branding concepts, and how the students planned to introduce their organizations to their target markets.

The judges also inquired about the reality of the financial projections, and posed potential roadblocks that the students might not have addressed in the initial presentations.

During the presentations, Student Government, Inc. Vice President Kevin Grover expressed his amazement at the innovation shown in the presentations. “All the projects just had this incredible spark of creativity” he said. “Any one of those presenting would make a phenomenal startup.”

Patrick Diamitani, the president of the University Entrepreneurial Society, said he was surprised at the way the groups advertised their ideas, in a technique he called guerilla marketing.

“Placing advertising in unexpected places is the new face of marketing and these kids are catching the wave,” he said. “It’s really innovative, they did their homework.”

Rojas and his team presented their ideas to the panel, which would not only be hosted on the Internet, but be advertised on it as well.

The marketing pitch, created by an eBoard consisting of members from across the globe, also relied heavily on catchy pop culture advertising.

Freshman Bailey Noone said she was impressed by Rojas’ use of advertisements and his pitch to the panel.

“The idea of focusing something like Craigslist on college students is brilliant, and the presenter had fantastic stage presence,” she said. “I was hooked by the idea almost as much as I was by the clever ads [he] used.”

Grover agreed with these comments saying that he thought the success of the project would come from whoever gave the best pitch.

“The presenter totally makes all the difference in the world,” he said.