by Jackie Davis
Professional MBA students compete to take a start-up business — owned by an alum — to the next level.
Students in Robinson’s Professional MBA (PMBA) program experienced firsthand the opportunities and challenges early-stage entrepreneurs and startup founders face when launching and scaling a new business venture during a 12-week entrepreneurship competition, the Mini uVenture Challenge.
The challenge, facilitated by Isabelle Monlouis, a visiting professor in Robinson’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Institute, served as part of the co-curriculum offerings for PMBA students to provide them with an understanding of how startup entrepreneurship differs from corporate innovation. The startup ventures in the uVenture Challenge were all created by Georgia State University alumni, and each received objective assessments of their current capabilities, opportunities to pivot their ventures to additional marketplaces and targeted recommendations to take their startups to the next level.
Three student teams each supported one company:
- Social Square, a social enterprise aimed at connecting social change advocates with causes and investors
- SoundCollide, a web platform allowing real-time and online collaboration between music producers and performers
- Event Tent, a startup that curates a list of local happenings allowing users to find events and “know before you go” via their mobile app
For student Branden Douglas, being assigned to an already-launched company proved easier said than done. “I have never been entrepreneurial,” he said, clarifying that developing ideas for someone else could be terrifying. “I could wake up next and be the Winklevoss to Facebook’s Zuckerberg.”
For student Scott Cooper, a challenge like this was a cinch. “I’m in sales, so pitching for the company was not very difficult personally once I knew all of the characteristics and capabilities of the business,” he said.
The first-prize winners of the competition not only recommended a pivot for Event Tent’s app from a B2C to a B2B target market but most importantly established a partnership with the City of Decatur for Event Tent’s app for posting all City of Decatur events, impressing founder and Robinson alum Justin McLeod.
“I think it’s great,” said McLeod. “One of our initial strategies was to start small by going neighborhood-to-neighborhood and it’s great to see things fall into place.”
Cooper reflected on the challenge by admiring the depths of processes in building a business. “It was interesting understanding more about the business process, specifically the creation of the plan and how to get where you want to be,” he said, noting, “you may have to pivot a couple of times.”
Brett Matherne, assistant dean for flexible and professional MBA programs at the Robinson College of Business stated, “Watching our professionally experienced students jump into this learning opportunity is exactly what we hoped for when we created this co-curricular component. Entrepreneurship and innovation are so important in today’s business world that having a firsthand experience without having to risk your own capital can free people to imagine the unimaginable. That is exactly what was realized by our students and alumni founders of the ventures.”
With their winnings, the first place team will be pitching in to throw a party for their class, proving that everyone wins in a competition like this.