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Tepper Venture Challenge

Many students would love to drop out of school and start their own business. Yesterday, one group of undergraduates proved that they could do just that.

The Tepper Venture Challenge (TVC), a competition simulating the proposal of entrepreneurial ideas, ended yesterday after six final teams presented their business plans to venture capitalists and businessmen.

The judges awarded the grand prize of $5000 to “Envivial” from Carnegie Mellon, a team composed of Kyle Langworthy, Joseph Damato, and Matthew Humphrey. Coming in second with an award of $3000 was the team “Acadaid,” and the team “Medimaging” took the third prize of $2000.

The TVC began when teams submitted executive summaries for review at the beginning of March. After that, the judges chose six teams to compete in the finals.

To encourage open-ended creativity, the TVC had no official guidelines for ideas, and the summaries could be as long or short as the teams chose.

“We can give guidelines, but in the end, if it looks solid, it will come through no matter what,” said Saravana Sivasankaran, a junior in electrical and computer engineering and chair of the TVC.

Teams from all over Pennsylvania could enter, and a record 34 teams competed for a chance to win a part of the $10,000.

At the finals, qualifying teams from Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh each presented their ideas for 10 minutes to a panel of real venture capitalists and businessmen. Then the judges had 10 minutes to question each team and critique their ideas.

“There are not very many undergraduate entrepreneurship competitions,” said Arthur Boni, the deputy director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship in the Tepper School.

“It allows for an experience much like going for investors. Feedback itself ... is one of the best learning experiences.”

This is the first year that the TVC has been open to schools across Pennsylvania. It has grown with its organizing group, the Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association (UEA).

The UEA’s membership has doubled since last spring, and the group is beginning to sponsor new competitions.

Boni said the Tepper School of Business is a pioneer of education in entrepreneurship.

“The business plan competition is a very important part of what we do,” Boni said. “It’s a very, very good mechanism for [proposing ideas].”

Sivasankaran believes there is great enthusiasm for entrepreneurs in the UEA; he noted that many students will leave Carnegie Mellon to pursue their ideas.

Boni, who expressed his confidence in the Carnegie Mellon entrepreneurship program, believes that students who take the courses of his department have a competitive edge.

Langworthy, a junior finance major who has not taken a curricular course in entrepreneurship, and his two teammates took their winning team “Envivial” in front of the judges and presented the idea
during the finals of Sunday’s competition they had developed since the summer.

“We’re looking for help with how to argue a pitch,” said Langworthy. “For the most part, I’m not looking for positive feedback.”

Langworthy intends to develop his idea into his own business. He sees the TVC as helpful but not necessary.

“This is not a vivifying competition. Whether I win or lose, it doesn’t matter.”

Finishing in first place, “Envivial” won $5000 in legal services from the law firm Meyer, Unkovic, and Scott, LLP.