Can one person's "remnants" become another person's riches? In the case of the McColl School's Executive MBA class of 2013, the answer may well be yes.
On Wednesday, April 12, 2013, students along with their families, friends, and faculty gathered in Ketner Auditorium for an annual McColl School tradition: the Executive MBA Business Plan Competition.
In a new twist this year, the four teams were tasked with finding a way to breathe new life into existing business ideas and inventions. Considered "remnant intellectual property," these ideas had previously failed to fulfill their potential at Enventys, a Charlotte-based product design and engineering firm headed by CEO Louis Foreman. Foreman is also the CEO of Edison Nation and produces the award-winning PBS television show Everyday Edisons.
The year-long project requires students to pull "together all aspects of starting a new business," said Professor Charles Bamford, including strategy, accounting, marketing, IT, and finance. "It's one thing to listen to how to start a new business in a classroom... it's quite another to have to do it for yourselves. It is a transformational experience for our students."
The four judges, all accomplished entrepreneurs and/or investors, included Foreman, Rajeev Kulkarni, Melissa McGuire and Paul Solitario. In the McColl School's version of Shark Tank, the judges listened, provided feedback and asked the kinds of tough questions likely to come from real investors.
Among the presentations was an improved lacrosse helmet, a liquid dispensing technology, and a snack food tray. But the winner of the ninth annual David Stephens Entrepreneurial Spirit Award was Track Tunes.
Teammates Matthew Ventimiglia, Rafat Khader, Tim O'Boyle, Steven Sawyer, and Aaron Harper developed a plan for an optical guidance car that follows small colored tracks representing musical notes and allows kids to make music while playing with the cars.
"At first we were very focused on the car," said O'Boyle. Then they had a "breakthrough" and realized emphasizing the color and music aspects of the technology "would create more of an interactive learning game."
O'Boyle described putting the lessons of the Executive MBA program into practice as an "incredible learning experience."
"We all put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this and we definitely want to see it go further," he said. "Hopefully Enventys is going to want to invest in this and take it to market."
In the meantime, all of the students learned first-hand how to create, present and defend a new business idea.
As O'Boyle put it, "That is not an easy thing to do."