Venture competition helps launch careers
Now in its fourth year, the Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC), in which undergraduates vie for $10,000 in seed money to start a business, has provided entrepreneurial learning opportunities that some students have leveraged into careers.
On April 15, Shahbano Imran ’09 and David Tolioupov ’10 (pictured) bested 16 other teams to capture the BCVC title and $10,000 prize to turn their idea into reality. Imran and Toulioupov’s business plan featured a product called PIQC, a search engine that returns highly relevant results for complex search queries, and one that will allow businesses to build targeted advertising platforms.
Founded in 2006 by Bill Clerico ’07, Matt Becker ’08, Eric Hilberg ’06, and Paul Santora ’08, BCVC is an annual University-wide competition housed in the Carroll School of Management that, Clerico says, “helps give students’ business plans the legs they need to become companies.”
The competition is organized every year by a group of students, and is supported by faculty advisors John Gallaugher, associate professor of information systems, and Larry Meile, adjunct associate professor, operations and strategic management department. Alumni serve as mentors to participating teams, and entrepreneurs, law partners, venture capitalists, and other executives provide additional coaching and advice.
“BCVC enables students to apply the exciting business skills they are learning in the classroom to an opportunity to create and sell a robust business plan in a real-world environment,” says Dean Andy Boynton. “You can’t beat this as a learning experience.”
That learning experience has had practical applications for BCVC founder Clerico and Rich Aberman ’07 (A&S), as well as for Carroll School student Greg Nemeth and Arun Gupta of Yale University, BCVC’s 2009 winning team. With the support of Y Combinator, an accelerator firm that specializes in funding and mentoring early-stage start-ups in software and web services, the alumni have launched WePay and WakeMate, respectively.
WePay is an online payment service designed to remove the hassles groups face in collecting and managing money. While part of the Y Combinator program, Clerico and Aberman raised $1.65 million in their first round of venture financing. Nemeth and Gupta also benefited from being part of Y Combinator, and received a number of stipends and grants from the venture community. WakeMate is a cell-phone accessory that tracks users’ sleep and wakes them at the point in their REM cycles when they will feel most refreshed and alert.
“BCVC is more than an entrepreneurial challenge, it’s a two-way street,” says Clerico. “Alumni get to interact with some of Boston College’s best and brightest, and the students get exposure to some of the University’s most successful alumni. I believe that these relationships are the most important part of the competition.”