The ideas poured in from student entrepreneurs in every corner of the world, from PhD candidates and MBA students to undergraduates. They were often backed by thoughtful analysis, competitive research, and go-to-market strategies that would put a smile on any angel investor’s face. And those ideas dazzled in every field, from telemedicine and cheaper food delivery to support of fisheries and water bottles for surfing wetsuits.
All told, 167 founders and founding teams entered our BIG IdeaBounce competition sponsored by Washington University’s Olin Business School, the winner of our 2022 ranking of the best MBA programs for entrepreneurship. WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce® powered by Poets&Quants pitch contest was open to all current undergraduate and graduate school students or any prospect interested in a graduate business school degree.
A dozen of those contenders have become finalists who are now competing for three slots to present in person on Washington University’s campus in St. Louis in March. The winner, to be chosen by a panel of judges, will receive $50,000 in funding from the Olin Business School. P&Q is also inviting our audience to vote for their favorite team and idea. You can watch their two-minute elevator pitches and read about their business plans in the following profiles.
‘WE WERE SHOCKED BY THE VOLUME AND QUALITY OF ENTRIES’
“For a first-year contest, we were shocked by the volume and quality of entries from across the U..S and the world,” says Doug Villhard, academic director for entrepreneurship at Washington University. “We received entries from all the top-ranked universities. And the student business ideas ranged from conceptual to some already generating revenue.”
Many ideas target specific markets from a memory box for those living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia or an ingenious power source for cyclists to keep them safe and connected. Some are highly complex, requiring sophisticated engineering and design; others are smart, yet simple ideas to address market gaps. All are well thought-out, heavily researched, and staffed with teams that can implement the dreams of their founders.
“I love seeing the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well out there in the next generation,” adds Villhard. “I can’t wait to see who wins this year and how much bigger we expect this competition to become in the years ahead. These are exactly the types of students that are attracted to our MBA program at WashU Olin and I’m sure the other top programs as well. The entrants are smart, hard-working, and have the right type of hustle that top VCs and employers could only hope to find.”
INSPIRED BY HER FATHER’S DEATH
Several were inspired by personal events. Courtney Burris, a fifth-year Phd student at the University of Buffalo, lost her father last May after a battle with cancer. Before his passing, he lost his ability to bathe himself. That caused Burris to work on developing something called The Aiding Arm. It is a clip-on shower chair attachment with a patented two-lever system that moves a removable showerhead along a track front-to-back and side-to-side, bringing the shower to the user.
It was firsthand experience that propelled Dr. Linda Wu to come up with her idea. A pediatrician and a member of the faculty at Washington University’s School of Medicine, she is working on a telemedicine startup called MiDoc that is an at-home medical device that allows physicians to remotely conduct lung and heart physical exams. The payoff: The product promises to improve healthcare access, affordability, convenience, and quality.
Not every idea is brand new. PedalCell Co-Founders Adam Hokin (CEO) and Vishaal Mali (CTO) founded their startup in 2015 as college freshmen. Their product is a bicycle power source that converts a cyclist’s motion into continuous charge for lights, smartphones, GPS, and other essential USB devices.
Hokin is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, while Mali invented the company’s core IP and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s McCormick Engineering School in Computer and Electrical Engineering. The pair have put together a formidable team that includes a chef marketing officer with half-a-decade of online marketing experience, a mechanical engineering veteran with experience at SpaceX as well as Apple, and a China-based member with 5+ years of Asian supply chain operations experience.
MAKING, CURATING AND SELLING APPAREL WOMEN WOULD ACTUALLY WEAR
Like Hokin and Mali, Jessica Landzberg and Olivia Bordson also go way back. Co-founders and owners of Pareto, the self-described retail nerds met eight years ago as students at Washington University. In high school, the worked on the floor as store managers. In college, they worked in-house for brands and retailers like Madewell, Band of Outsiders, and Target. After graduation, the pair spent a combined 7+ years at McKinsey serving 15+ retail brands across functional topics like merchandising, digital marketing, and pricing.
Currently a Stanford MBA, Landzberg and her co-founder have launched a direct-to-consumer, women’s apparel brand that makes the best version of the clothing women would actually wear, what they describe as a farm-to-closet supply chain. Pareto was born from a frustration with the retail industry’s focus on more – more product, more often. And for what? But the pair have found that women are wearing 20% of their closets, 80% of the time, wasting time and money sifting through endless new product. Their goal: To make, curate and sell less apparel that would be worn.
Check out our profiles on the top 12 finalists and watch their elevator pitch videos by clicking on the links in the table below.
The BIG IdeaBounce Finalists
CAST YOUR VOTE UNTIL MARCH 2! Winner will earn $1000.