Big Breakthroughs for V2’s Winning Entrepreneurs
USD News Center | Ryan T. Blystone
It was a night of firsts and a time to seize the moment. An opportunity to share a business idea that started as a personal dream and, in exchange for hard work and countless revisions, a chance to receive a significant reward and important validation.
That was the scenario for eight student entrepreneur team finalists who presented their idea before expert angel investors and a live audience April 28 in the fifth annual Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition at University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre. A total of $100,000 was available — $50,000 in prize money for four University of San Diego teams and $50,000 in money and in-kind services for four binational teams.
While it was quite a night for everyone involved, the biggest financial winners were USD student businesses Tech Meets Trader, Folded Color and Lacy and binational companies Agrosol, Napanga and FXR.
“It’s huge,” said Warren Lorenz, a junior finance major in USD’s School of Business, who delivered a confident seven-minute pitch for Tech Meets Trader, a free social community for stocks and options investors, and, along with partner Al Frimpong, received the top award of $25,000.
“It allows us the capital to provide more resources, hire a developer to work alongside us,” Lorenz said. Self-promoted as “The Facebook of Stocks” and incorporated eight months ago, Lorenz said Tech Meets Trader being a V2 finalist and, in what was his first live pitch for the company, getting the end result was a significant step forward.
“We put a lot of time and effort into it. We knew being in V2 would be a great opportunity. V2 is a credential now and we can use that validation as a stepping stone.”
Female MBAs Shine in USD Track
The same could be said for V2’s three other USD finalists, each of whom had their pitches delivered by a current USD MBA female student. Folded Color, a technology company that offers e-commerce solutions for custom-printed packaging, earned $15,000. Jessica Kort spoke about Lacy, a one-touch, portable automated system used to wash bras and other delicate garments, earning $8,000. Sara Artime and Kendra Uminger discussed Like Cats and Dogs, a local producer of safe and fun toys for cats and dogs, and received $2,000.
Jackie Steiner did her first solo live pitch when she talked about Folded Color, a start-up business owned and run by her family, including her brother, Macy, and her mother, Janet.
The V2 experience, which consists of the live pitch and one-on-one individual meetings with angel investors before results are revealed, was helpful for Steiner. “I learned that doing a pitch in front of a bunch of people wasn’t going to kill me,” she said. “I survived. I learned a lot and I’m better prepared for doing it again.” The one-on-one meetings were also beneficial. “It gave me confidence in the product we have to offer and validation for our family business and a safe environment to ask questions back to angel investors. (USD and V2) really gave us a great platform to learn more and we’re very thankful for that.”
Kort, part of a two-person Lacy team with fellow MBA student Stephanie McQuade, was experiencing a particularly busy week. Kort was a finalist both for V2 and USD’s Social Innovation Challenge, which was held on April 29. Kort is the first female to be a finalist in both USD entrepreneurial events in the same year and it was with two different ideas. She received over $10,000 in money and in-kind services for Foothold Foundation at the SIC event.
Bi-National Track Growth
An increasingly important aspect of the competition has been the work of V2 Founder and Lead Professor in Entrepreneurship Michael Lawless and Regina Bernal, the School of Business’ entrepreneurship and experiential learning coordinator, to grow and provide opportunities for Mexico-based student entrepreneurs. The 2016 finalists were Agrosol, Napanga, FXR and Baja Saver.
Agrosol, a project that offers a fertilization, fumigation and geographical scanning system performed by drones, was awarded the top amount within the binational track, $20,000. The company’s pitch presenters were Heidy Marmol and Ayax Estrada, both students at Universidad Iberoamericana in Tijuana.
“It’s overwhelming,” said a joyful Marmol. “We were hoping for this, but this is overwhelming.”
Added Estrada: “We’ve always had trust in our idea and were completely sure it was a good idea, but we’re grateful to know that (angel investors) shared that it is a good idea.”
The remaining binational finalists also fared well. Napanga, a Tijuana brewery dedicated to production and distribution of microbrews with a female focus, earned $14,000. FXR, a quick and reliable mobile app to request certified professional services for home repair and maintenance, received $12,000. Baja Saver, a concept designed to generate clean and cheap energy, earned $4,000.
Angel investors for the V2 competition were Shayne Skaff, Andreas Roell and Gioia Messinger for the USD track and Silvia Mah, Ramon Toledo and Alberto Osio for the bi-national track finalists. The V2 program began with an entrepreneur venture fair and an inspired keynote talk by 2008 USD alumnus and entrepreneur Tim Suski, who co-founded the boutique fitness franchise, Rush Indoor Cycling Studio, and Boomr, a workforce management platform.