For the past 13 years, NYU’s Stern School of Business has hosted its Entrepreneurs Challenge—one of the largest university startup competitions in the country. This year, close to 500 students, faculty and alumni from across NYU signed up to compete for more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind services.
In past years, the Entrepreneurs Challenge has produced a long list of successful startups including CourseHorse, Anzenna, Pinterest (f/k/a Tote), PODER, Madécasse, SocialBomb, The HotList, Rickshaw Dumplings, Comixology (f/k/a Iconology), Big Bad Boo and many others.
This year, teams drawn from ten schools across NYU signed up to compete for more than $200,000 in cash and in-kind services. Over the past eight months, the teams participated in a series of workshops, entrepreneurship boot camps, coaching and feedback sessions. They have been challenged, prodded and questioned by volunteer coaches, mentors and evaluators. More importantly, they left campus to validate their business plan assumptions, spoke with potential customers, partners and even prospective employees. In the end, the teams emerged with a business model that was stronger, tighter and more compelling than the mere idea many of them started with. After multiple rounds of rigorous screening the 175 teams, that entered the competition last fall were whittled down to the final 12.
This past Friday, the finalists teams had their one last chance to impress a distinguished panel of judges to vie for: the $75,000 Ira Leon Rennert prize, awarded to the winners of the 13th Annual New Venture Competition; the $50,000 Social Venture prize, awarded to winners of the 9th Annual Social Venture Competition; and the 2nd Annual NYU Technology Venture Competition $75,000 prize which is sponsored by the NYU Innovation Venture Fund, Lowenstein Sandler and EisnerAmper.
The judges included venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and executives including: Shelley Harrison (Eng BS ’66, Poly MS ’66, Poly PhD ’71), Amish Jani, Micah Rosenbloom, Fred Wilson (NYU Trustee), Zack Schildhorn, Daniel Katz (Stern MBA), Lara Galinsky, Jill Nagel, Hans Taparia, Flory Wilson, William Berkley (Stern BS ’66 and NYU Trustee), Scott Kauffman (Stern MBA ’84), Liz Miller, Shabnam Rezai (Stern MBA ’01) and John Warburg (Stern MBA).
This past Friday, each team had their final 30 minutes to make their case to the judges. After six hours of pitches and 90 minutes of deliberations, five teams were declared the winners:
$50,000 Social Venture Competition
- Nutraceutical Market Solutions (Stern)
$75,000 New Venture Competition
Though only my second year at NYU, there was a clear increase in the caliber of the teams in the finals this year. Perhaps this explains why the judges picked two winners in each of the Technology Venture and the New Venture tracks. It is clear to me that the considerable investment NYU is making in encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship is paying off!
Please join me in saluting this year’s winners (and all of the teams) for all their hard work, boldness and creativity.