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Tuesday, February 19 , 2019, 3:50 am | Fair 39º


UCSB Students Pitch Their Best Business Ideas for New Venture Competition

Would-be entrepreneurs vie for votes from judges and mentors for the chance to compete for cash prizes on May 22

A local business leader stood idle in the crowd for mere seconds Wednesday evening before an eager college student spotted him, made eye contact and solidly shook his hand. Next came the 90-second “elevator pitch.”

So the evening went for more than 100 judges during the semifinal round of UC Santa Barbara’s New Venture Competition for would-be entrepreneurs in its Technology Management Program (TMP).

The 22 groups of undergraduate and graduate students presented their best business ideas during Wednesday’s 14th annual New Venture Fair in the hopes of raking in the most votes from judges and mentors, or advisers, of the TMP program.

The six groups with the most votes found out Thursday that they’re finalists who will compete for cash prizes on May 22.

Finalists include Asta Fluidic Technologies, Gain Changer, Komodo Toys, MyConciergeMobile, Napses, and PolySpectra.

“This is a trade show,” said Mike Panesis, TMP program manager. “We get a little bit of everything. It’s a very important part of what we do.”

Panesis said students have been working for months to pick their groups of two to six and then to perfect a pitch based on a mix of what they’ve learned in TMP classes and on their own creativity.

A workout tracking system for adults (Gain Changer) and apps to improve finding a WiFi connection while traveling (All Aboard WiFi) or to remotely make reservations for barbershop and salon appointments (BarberQ) are a meager snapshot of the innovative ideas. A list of all entries can be found by clicking here.

How students answer the volunteer judge question, “What’s in it for the investor?” could be the difference between whether they advance to win anywhere from $1,250 to $12,500 to put their idea to work.

No pressure.

UCSB student Patrick Therrien, right, talks with a judge about his group's Komodo Toys venture. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)
UCSB student Patrick Therrien, right, talks with a judge about his group’s Komodo Toys venture. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“We’re going for best booth,” said senior Hannah Anderson, a member of the BarberQ group.

“Best booth” was this year’s addition to the competition, which allowed judges to text the code that corresponds with the most impressive business booth.

Freshman Sanchit Gupta spoke confidently about the pricing model and the competition up against his group’s business, Napses — a cloud-based software that could replace the way students lug around required course readers.

Bruce Allen, a TMP mentor and judge, called the evening “stimulating” and marveled at the way students have changed their business models over the course of the school year.

“You’re able to give the teams insight and advice,” Allen said. “Some of them you just want to spend an hour with.”

Beyond the nerves, some students showed genuine gratitude for even the opportunity to network with professional entrepreneurs.

“This is a ton of fun,” said Robert David Reid, a junior trying to sell his group’s MyConciergeMobile app. “But it’s really hard.”

Reid’s group, which created an app that enables hotels to sell additional services to guests via text requests, already has its first customer. The Bacara Resort & Spa signed on to pay monthly for the service in January.

“Texting is the way people want to communicate,” Reid said.

Regardless of whether Reid’s group wins the competition, he said, “we’re pursuing this.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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