Funnest Moments From the Wharton BPC
- by Matthew Brodsky
The Wharton Business Plan Competition (BPC), in all its 15 years, has hardly been merely a ha-ha affair. Among the first and best in academia, the competition spans two semesters every year, during which time students strive through multiple grueling rounds to reach the Finals and their chance to be number 1 startup on campus. It’s a legitimate opportunity to earn prize money and recognition that could help propel a startup closer to sustainability and success.
We’ve covered the rigors of the Wharton Business Plan Competition on numerous occasions (most notably, the “Day in the Life” video below). But what we haven’t really covered yet is the fun.
On that last day of the BPC, after the “Great Eight” finalists give their serious and lengthy presentations to the panel of esteemed judges, there is room for a little levity. It’s called the Elevator Pitch Competition. Each team stands before friends, family, faculty and other guests at the Finals closing reception and gives a minute spiel for its startup. Attendees can then vote on their favorite, and the team with the most votes earns the Michelson People’s Choice Award of $3,000.
It is during this moment in the 2014 BPC Finals on Thursday, May 1, that I collected some of the funnier happenings of the day.
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Second-year MBA Zach Simkin, C’06, of Senvol promised that the technology underpinning his startup —3-D printing—would make the other seven finalists obsolete soon enough. “Other finalists won’t even exist anymore,” he told the crowd, with the tone of a car salesman in his own TV commercial. “We’re going to 3-D print them out of business.”
2. When first-year Lauder student Nimish Shukla followed Simkin with his own elevator pitch for startup Abaris, an “Orbitz for annuities,” Shukla quipped, “I don’t think you’ll be able to print a 3-D annuity anytime soon.”
3. Though that was a fun and friendly back and forth between competitors, perhaps the best “back and forth” occurred when the founders of sandwich brand Matt and Marie’s—second-years Justin Sapolsky, W’08, and Nicole Capp—presented in the Elevator Pitch Competition. Capp’s mom and a friend distributed throughout the crowd free samples of their hearty sandwiches. (We’re fans; see “Worth a Taste Test.”)
4. Perhaps the team at PhaseOptics—second-year MD/MBA dual-degrees Frank Brodie and Grant Mitchell and second-year MBA Paul Blanton—took a card out of a politician’s playbook when they brought a friend’s baby up to present with them (we’re assuming it was a friend’s). The baby promptly wailed like an infant in a wedding ceremony.
“We’re so excited to be here,” the PhaseOptics guys said. “The baby seems less excited.”
The stunt worked. PhaseOptics won the Michelson People’s Choice Award.
As for the three big Wharton BPC awards of the day, they played out as followed:
Perlman Grand Prize ($30,000 cash + $15,000 in-kind services): Android app Slidejoy and its founders, second-year Lauder student Sanghoon Kwak, second-year MBA Jaeho Chung and Robert Seo, WG’12.
Second Prize ($15,000 cash + $15,000 in-kind services): PhaseOptics (who presented during the “serious” round sans baby).
Third Prize ($10,000 cash + $15,000 in-kind services): VeryApt, a “TripAdvisor meets Pandora for apartments,” run by second-year MBAs Ashrit Kamireddi and Scott Bierbryer, as well as Andrew Mackowski and Ross Bierbryer.
For more information on these teams, the judges, the process and more prizes, visit the Wharton Business Plan Competition website at: http://bpc.wharton.upenn.edu/venturefinals.html.