2019 V2’s Winning Entrepreneurs
USD News Center | Ryan T. Blystone
Former USD Soccer Goalie Turns Problem into a $20,000 V2-Winning Business Idea
When Connor Hountalas encountered a problem getting recruited by colleges as a legitimate soccer goalkeeper a few years ago, he was frustrated with the recruiting marketing experience. “The industry was not based on common sense,” he believed. Three years later, his solution turned into an entrepreneurial idea that, on April 25 in the eighth annual University of San Diego Venture Vetting (V2) Pitch Competition, earned him $20,000.
Hountalas’ problem: “When I was a high school senior applying to Division I schools for soccer scholarships, I recognized a market vacuum. There was an absence of companies offering quality video production for scholarship-seeking collegiate-bound athletes. As a 6-foot-1 goalkeeper in a setting where being 6-4 was the minimum, I knew I’d have to go above and beyond in reaching out to coaches. An absence of quality companies created opportunities alongside demand. By teaching myself how to edit and getting my name out there through video, I received official offers to Harvard, UCLA, University of San Diego, UC Davis, Sacramento State, and many others,” he said.
The result is Double Take Recruitment Videos. Replicating and improving on the process he personally used to get noticed by college recruiters, Double Take, which has the NCAA’s stamp of approval, has enough promise that the junior USD business finance major and entrepreneurship minor who did get recruited by USD and played for two seasons, ended his soccer playing career to focus on the business and academics.
“It started to get more traction and I had to make a decision, either play soccer or follow my passion,” Hountalas said. It was a difficult decision, he said, speaking often with USD’s coaching staff about it, but ultimately, he chose a business path.
And his performance as a V2 finalist only adds to the confidence he has about making his decision.
Hountalas gave a seven-minute presentation about Double Take. It was the second pitch among three USD finalists — Gigglr and LifeBox were the other finalists — and because of the idea, the pitch, and after speaking individually with V2’s four-person angel investors panel members, Jeffrey Adler, Andrew Ly, Victoria Lakers and Michael Kimball, he was declared the winner of the entire prize money pool amount.
The announcement was stunning, even for Hountalas. “I started shaking when I found out I’d won the whole twenty-thousand. Even if you hope for it, you can’t expect that to happen.”
Two all-undergraduate student-led competitors Gigglr, presented by USD graduating senior business majors Dane Baker and Peter Twomey, and LifeBox, an idea presented by Industrial and Systems Engineering student Charlie Bullard and an idea that is currently a USD semifinalist for the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, certainly sought to do their best, too.
Hountalas, who praised USD faculty members for their guidance and support along the way, was ready. “I spent more than 200 hours preparing for (the presentation) and I think it helped me find clarity in my company. Knowing about the companies I was going up against, I had a chip on my shoulder because I knew the others were phenomenal, too, and I had to show up and do the best I could.”
In essence, instead of getting noticed for his ability to stop soccer balls from going into the net, he’s now committed to help potential college soccer athletes get noticed and to help them reach their goals through his video service.
He’s currently got three colleges providing a pilot testing program — USD, Loyola Marymount and Sacramento State are the three — for Double Take. If successful, Hountalas said there are as many as 30 more colleges interested in following their lead.
He plans to utilize the V2 seed funding to scale the business in myriad ways, but the results of the pilot program, “will point us to where we’re going to turn our marketing funds.”
V2’s International Track Results
Uruguay’s Boki, an educational digital tool designed to improve a child’s learning experience and enhances their enthusiasm, was named the winner of the V2 international track over two other entrants.
“We combined software, pedagogy, video games and the publishing world to create Boki,” the creators stated. “Boki can be understood as an educational tool, including fun, challenging activities and exercises which help children learn in a playful and interactive way.”
Boki, pitched by Federico Bello, qualified through a Latin America track competition co-hosted by USD and Uruguay’s Universidad ORT in Eden, Uruguay, last month. Teams representing a network of business schools from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru competed in it. Boki and Chile’s SkyClope emerged as two of the three international finalists, joining Mexico’s Aliquam for the V2 event in San Diego. After Boki, Aliquam, presented by Dr. Adrian Lopez Gomez, was second and Skyclope, whose presentation was given by Carlos Angulo del Pozo, finished third.
Overcoming some initial public speaking nervousness on USD’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre stage, Bello shared Boki’s business model and then spoke with and answered questions from the three-person international angel investors panel of Ramon Toledo, Navid Alipour and Wolf Bielas to improve Boki’s outlook.
“I was very happy when we knew we had won,” Bello said. “Our experience here was great. We were able to meet a lot of people, receive feedback and recommendations that can help us grow and be better in the future.”
Having an educational and fun product that can stimulate enthusiasm for learning is always an appealing business idea. “Children’s education is a problem worldwide and we hope to improve it. This is a good opportunity to work with children and to increase the market.”
This year’s international presence with three business pitches from three different countries made it the most diverse field for V2 since adding the bi-national track five years ago, said Michael Lawless, PhD, clinical professor of management in USD’s School of Business, academic director of entrepreneurship initiatives and the founder of both V2 and USD’s fall event, the Legacy Entrepreneurship Conference.
Regina Bernal, entrepreneurial manager for the School of Business and the top organizer of the V2 competition, was also pleased with this year’s international track for its diversity of entrants and finalists. “Expanding our international reach this year to include Chile, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, and Uruguay truly addresses our mission as a business school to create more globally-minded leaders. It is incredible to see the growth of the V2 Pitch Competition in the last eight years and how many entrepreneurs we have had the honor of working with and impacting the future of their ventures and lives.”
— Ryan T. Blystone
USD News Center