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“As the world continues to move towards a new normal of doing things the virtual way, this could be great practice for my future pitches to venture capitalists or angel investors that might also require virtual presentations." -- Everett Connor, BrewMats”
The Harbert College of Business is committed to providing a superior student experience, increase cross-campus partnerships, develop graduates who are highly-skilled, professionally-prepared, confident, ethical, and globally-minded. The annual Tiger Cage Business Idea Competition checks those boxes.
The 2020 Tiger Cage Student Business Pitch Finals have gone remote. In the wake of COVID-19 and in the spirit of public health and social distancing, four student-led teams will make their pitches remotely -- via video -- then answer questions on April 10 from 15 industry professional judges on Zoom.
In its sixth year and originally scheduled for March 27, students will be competing for a share of $49,000 in startup capital.
“I would like to point out that many startups or projects have team members living in multiple locations,” said Lou Bifano, Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy at the Harbert College of Business, which sponsors the annual event. “With the technologies available today, it’s possible to create virtual proximity and allow people to interact as if they were in the same room. I believe virtual meetings will become more prevalent as technology tools continue to advance.”
Teams competing include:
* Remora Robotics, a robotic drone that cleans waterways (Zach Wadzinski, Gi Lee, Harrison Smith and Dakota Newsome, from the Ginn College of Engineering)
* BrewMats, a portable mat that allows Beer Pong to be played without fear of knocking over plastic cups (Everett Connor, from the Harbert College of Business)
* SwiftSku, software that assists convenience store owners in managing inventory (Mit Patel and Daniel Mazur, from the Ginn College of Engineering)
* Blueprint Pal, a weatherproof box that protects blueprints and attaches to the rear of vehicles in the construction industry (Tyler Deaton, Jake Christner, Ryan Pollard, Liana Wood, and David Armstrong, from the Ginn College of Engineering)
Teams have until April 7 to complete and upload their presentation videos to the competition committee, which will be made available to the judges on April 9.
“We’ve reminded the students that a flashy video with little content will not be viewed well by the judges, compared to a solid, basic video that does an excellent job of communicating the teams’ business idea."”
“While the teams’ skill levels on video production varies, there is already a broad range of video creation tools that range from basic functionality that is easy to learn and use to more sophisticated, fuller-function products," Bifano said. "We’ve reminded the students that a flashy video with little content will not be viewed well by the judges, compared to a solid, basic video that does an excellent job of communicating the teams’ business idea.”
Presenting to judges remotely in the finals wasn’t expected when dozens of teams began this quest last September. For some teams, it creates a challenge. For others, it creates an opportunity.
“Presenting online allows us to get a handle on our online presence, in general, moving forward,” said Wadzinski, an undergraduate research fellow in the Ginn College of Engineering and CEO of Remora Robotics. “It accelerates our timeline on producing professional videos of our product and communicating it over the internet. We still think that the presentation will have a similar feeling as the real deal once it happens.”
““We will be able to utilize animations and illustrations which would not have been feasible to incorporate in a live presentation format. The judges are able to pause and rewind if they misunderstand a piece of information, or would like to take more time to absorb an infographic.” -- Mit Patel, SwiftSku”
Mit Patel, a senior working toward accounting and mechanical engineering degrees, said remote presentations could be “a blessing in disguise.”
“We will be able to utilize animations and illustrations which would not have been feasible to incorporate in a live presentation format,” said Patel, CEO of SwiftSku. “(Via video) The judges are able to pause and rewind if they misunderstand a piece of information, or would like to take more time to absorb an infographic.”
Tyler Deaton, a junior in business analytics, believes the remote aspect adds another dimension to the competition. “Rather than presenting the same pitch with only a small variety between each round (quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals), we are able to engage with the judges in an entirely different way.”
But … remote presentations lack personality.
“As personable people, we loved the fact that we were able to interact with the audience in the first few rounds,” he added. “One of our group’s strong suits was being able to interact with judges during the presentation, and now we are having to find out the best way to accomplish that in our video.”
Everett Connor, who advanced beyond the February 28 semifinals by tangibly showing his product’s functionality before judges, is working hard to adapt.
“As the world continues to move towards a new normal of doing things the virtual way, this could be great practice for my future pitches to venture capitalists or angel investors that might also require virtual presentations,” said Connor, CEO of BrewMats and senior in management. “Not being able to be there – giving a pitch in-person – my submission is going to be what represents me and my company and I want to make sure that I am able to get my idea and plan for the future across to the judges in the best way possible.”
Judges will score each team’s online pitch presentation and follow-up question-and-answer session and award $25,000 in startup capital to the winner, $12,000 to second place, $7,000 to third place, and $5,000 to fourth place.