Ian Wessen was on the lookout for clipboards, scanning a steadily growing crowd Thursday evening with fellow UC Santa Barbara students who were also “dressed to the nines” for the occasion.
The trick was spotting them before they spotted you, which would mean that one of the more than 200 judges of the 15th annual New Venture Fair had been left idle a moment too long.
The UCSB senior physics major said his team of four was over stage fright at this point, having prepared to give their best business pitch the past 10 months.
Wessen’s Daycasters team competed with 21 other small groups of undergraduate and graduate students in the Technology Management Program fair, a lead-up to UCSB’s New Venture Competition.
The six teams who garner the most nods from judges and mentors of the TMP program during the semifinal round at the Corwin Pavilion go on to compete for cash prizes totaling $75,000 on May 22.
A good reason to please.
“Do you ever turn your lights on during the day?” Wessen said to a judge.
He held up a small, flat and clear circular prism, explaining its ability to redirect sunlight from a window (as an attachment) into a home or office.
“These things are extremely cost beneficial,” Wessen said of the patented technology developed by UCSB physics professor Benjamin Monreal.
Not to mention eco-friendly.
“So are they that size?” asked Andreas Forsland, a local entrepreneur and judge.
“Heavens no,” Wessen said, passing the pitch to senior English literature major Rachel Solomon, who explained the prisms would ideally be 24 inches by 24 inches and on a rotating motor.
Would the prisms be outside or inside? Could they be smaller?
“I like the idea,” Forsland said, offering suggestions based on similar projects he’s seen.
Adrian Arcilla, a third-year computer science major, offered to answer any other questions, and was rewarded with Forsland’s business card.
Many groups of would-be entrepreneurs chose teammates wisely, knowing they might need saving if — God forbid — they couldn’t remember an answer to a question.
Across the aisle, the ShadowMaps team of graduate students was swamped with business leaders wanting to learn about its cloud-based GPS technology that more accurately navigates in urban areas with tall buildings.
“This is one of the best groups we’ve ever had,” TMP program manager Mike Panesis said of this year’s competitors.
He said the six groups with the most votes would find out Monday whether they’re finalists competing in one of two categories — “tech push” and “marketing pull” — to rake in anywhere from $1,250 to $10,000.