New Venture Competition gives entrepreneurs opportunity for funding, mentoring

Austin Harper (left), Sam Russell (center) and Reid Rooney (right) hold a giant check for $25,000 at the New Venture Competition awards ceremony April 12 in McGuirk Arena.

Hundreds of people filed in and out of McGuirk Arena on April 12 as more than $100,000 was awarded to aspiring entrepreneurs at the 2019 New Venture Competition.

Hosted by the College of Business Administration, the event allows students to compete to give the best business pitch in order to secure money to fund their business. Several winners of previous years' competitions were present, and are still running the same business ideas they pitched previously.

This was the competition's ninth year. Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was invited as a keynote speaker to talk about startups in Michigan.

The annual competition is an eight-month process that starts in September and consists of 12 workshops to help the teams, said Jessica Meyers, CBA coordinator of events, communication and marketing.

“We teach them everything they need to know (during the workshops), so the New Venture Competition is a culmination of all that,” Meyers said.

In the morning, teams competed to give the best 10-minute pitch to judges in the French Auditorium of the College of Education and Human Services. At the end of three rounds, the remaining teams were eligible for one of five $10,000 prizes, a $25,000 prize, or one of three $30,000 prizes.

Awards were given out after dinner in McGuirk Arena. The $25,000 award for best overall venture went to three entrepreneurs behind the "Betsperts" app.

The app was created by Reid Rooney, Sam Russell and Austin Harper. Rooney and Russell graduated from Central Michigan University in 2012 and played baseball together, while Harper graduated from Clemson University and met Rooney while working with him at a previous job. 

Betsperts is an app that acts as a social media platform for sports gambling that aims to provide transparency as it becomes more legal around the country, Rooney said.

“We really appreciate the leadership here and for what this organization puts on for new ventures and businesses like us as we get started,” Harper said.

All participating teams were eligible to compete in a two-minute pitch, with prizes up to $1,000.

Troy sophomore Miranda Urban gave a pitch for "College Town Essentials," a website that aims to allow students and businesses in college towns to be easily connected.

The event was a great learning experience overall even though the judges did not select her pitch to be eligible for the $10,000 prizes, Urban said.

“I got over my fear of speaking, which was great,” Urban said. “Going from (pitching in front of) a room of about 20 people to almost 100 didn’t faze me at all.”

Detroit senior Cassandra Smith and Chesterfield graduate Ky-Ky Blake gave a pitch for their video production company, Panda House Productions. The company would shoot, edit and distribute videos of concerts, weddings or anything else for clients.

“Honestly, it was nerve-wracking,” Smith said. “But overall I loved it. I love speaking to people, so it was a really great experience.”