Global Venture Labs Headlines: TechCrunch, Statesman and More
All eyes were on McCombs last week for Venture Week and the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition (VLIC). Here's a roundup of headlines from TechCrunch, the Austin American-Statesman and more.
TechCrunch: Cattle Vaccine, Chip Verification Software Take Top Prizes at 2011 Moot Corp. Competition
TNG Pharmaceuticals, developers of a vaccine to keep cattle free of blood-sucking horn flies, took top prize at the [VLIC] business competition this weekend.
TNG Pharmaceuticals’ chief executive, Jenny Corbin, said the company plans to use its winnings from McCombs ... to develop and test manufacturing processes for their cattle vaccine, FlyVax, then advance it through federal regulatory processes.
“The horn fly causes an economic pain of $1 billion to the [cattle] industry in North America, annually," Corbin said.
According to competition finals judge Mike Dodd, a partner at Austin Ventures, TNG Pharmaceuticals locked first prize because:
“The team was experienced and well-versed in [biosciences] and intellectual property, while understanding the dairy, meat and leather industry. Looking at an average annual population of 94 million cows in North America, there’s a huge problem. This vaccine could solve it.”
Entrepreneurs from 16 startups based on research at the University of Texas promoted their companies to investors Wednesday, kicking off the Texas Venture Week event sponsored by the McCombs School of Business.
The companies represented a range of industries, including nanotechnology, online learning and wireless technology.
Ting Shen, co-founder and CEO of NanoLite Systems, pitched her team's idea for using microchip technology to improve medical imaging systems, aiding in doctors' ability to see and remove cancerous tumors.
The expo "is a great forum for us to gain more visibility in the investors community," Shen said. "Austin is a dynamic place where a lot of great ideas are developed, and we're a part of that."
Texas Venture Week is UT's way of spotlighting Austin's entrepreneurial spirit, and hopefully helping some companies attract the money they need to grow, said Rob Adams, director of the Texas Venture Labs at McCombs and organizer of Venture Week.
The idea, he said, is to make the event the South by Southwest of entrepreneurship in Austin.
"The goal is to show the business community what's going on with these new ventures and to highlight the companies and what they offer," Adams said.
If you want to remember why you got into business, then spend some time at the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition.
The University of Texas’ student business competition — so-called Super Bowl of Investment Competition and formerly known as Moot Corp — is full of bright minds, energetic pitches and investment-ready ideas. The global competition represents the top winners of business competitions around the world.
Gary Cadenhead, director of the Master of Science in Technology Commercialization Program and one of the founders of the competition, said the name change reflects the fact that the startups pitched at the 17-year-old competition are no longer moot. The competition now boasts a track record of startups that have attracted capital and gone on to become successful businesses.
“This is an opportunity [for investors] to see what some of the brightest entrepreneurs are thinking,” Cadenhead said. “They can use this as a harbinger of things to come.”
There were roughly a dozen investors present at the event who took the opportunity to grill team members on their businesses.
“What keeps you up at night?” said one investor to a competitor. “Well, if you don’t know, you’re not an entrepreneur yet.”
David Wenger, MBA '96 and McCombs director of communications, blogged on 6 tips judges had for venture teams:
- Keep Your Numbers Straight
- Slow Down Your Pitch
- Allow Your Audience to See, Hear and Experience
- Make it Clear Your Intellectual Property is Iron-Clad
- Don't Assume the Market Needs Your Product
- Network Like Crazy
We asked Rob Adams, director of the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, to share a little insight on the latest startup trends, what it takes to write an effective business plan and why the American Dream has gone viral.
What's the philosophy behind the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition?
The whole idea is giving graduate students an opportunity to figure out a business from a standing start in graduate school. Reading about how to run a business is like reading about how to ski -- at some point, you have to go up the mountain and go down the mountain. So this starts in the classroom as that kind of opportunity. Some people come to business school thinking, "Hey, I absolutely want to do this deal and I'm going to base my education on getting this deal done," which is great. Basically, we give them all the tools to do that. The result is, companies that do well here typically go out and raise money. So it very much mimics the real world venture-raising process.
Over the course of the competition and during your career, I imagine you've seen a lot of different trends. In a given year, there's a hot industry, hot product. What are you seeing lately?
There are two macro trends. One is significant increase in life science, bio science kinds of deals. We have eight entering tracks and this year we've had three of those tracks be life or bio sciences at the expense of IT or Web-oriented deals. So, what you're seeing is a little shift of investment capital out of technology as technology actually begins to mature as a category and into life sciences, bio sciences kind of things. Another trend you see is away from institutional investors providing early rounds into angel investors providing early rounds. Anyone raising under a million bucks for their first round -- first of all, they have revenue these days, and second of all, they're typically getting that capital from an angel.
What's your biggest piece of advice to people out there who are toiling away with their business plans right now?
The biggest piece of advice is, "What's the problem that you are fixing?" You've got to figure out what that is. Too many people just rely on their own instincts or past experience, and there's nothing wrong with that, but usually your perception of what the problem is is off. It's not that there's not a problem there, and your instincts might be right -- that people will pay you money -- but number one, you've got to find a market problem and you've got to define that before you build it. Too many people gun jump and go ready, fire, fire, fire, aim, and miss a market opportunity. The second thing is, the new formula that I have is, "It's got to be an urgent problem, it's got to be a pervasive problem and people have got to be willing to pay."