Humanitarian Pitches Take Center Stage at Venture Labs Investment Competition
The Huffington Post
“Global Venture Labs Investment Competition at the University of Texas at Austin: NuMat Wins”
June 11, 2012
In May, 37 teams from 13 different companies came together at the 29th annual Venture Labs Investment Competition at The University of Texas at Austin to pitch their ideas and compete for a grand prize package worth $135,000.
Despite the tremendous growth of internet-based businesses and a generation inundated with social media, an overwhelming number of business pitches were humanity-focused, catching the attention of the judges this year and generating some very positive feedback.
Here’s what a first-time Venture Labs Investment Competition judge reported in The Huffington Post about her impressions of the young entrepreneurs and their enthusiasm to change the world through meaningful business ideas:
In the session I judged, the teams pitching also focused on tackling serious issues. Education was a big concern. One man wanted to start his own college in Australia, while another intended to revolutionize GED education here in the United States.
The team that won that session, Innovostics, from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, had created a medical breakthrough device that instantly diagnoses fever to show whether a patient had a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection -- a life-saving necessity in third-world nations.
Also taking on third-word challenges was Timamu Food Solutions from Colorado State University, who were focused on helping children in Africa. They had created a more nutritious porridge flour to help fight malnutrition throughout east Africa. (Porridge is already a key food for the babies of east Arica, but the Timamu group had fortified their version with key vitamins and nutrients.)
One of my fellow judges had been judging the Venture Labs Investment competition for several years noted that the pitches of the teams in our session were "more global in scope" than he'd seen in previous years. And, he added, they were “more about touching human lives."
The Venture Labs Investment Competition is the oldest new venture competition in the world, and is sponsored by Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs at The University of Texas. Rob Adams, the Venture Labs Investment Competition Director and a fellow member of the HuffPost Small Business Board of Directors, says the contest "provides MBA student teams with a chance to simulate the real world process of raising venture capital. The judges function as an investment group seeking to reach consensus on the business venture they would most likely fund."
I admit I was a bit surprised at the real-world focus of the competing teams. I was expecting more social media platforms or consumer concepts. But I was heartened, and impressed, by how these (mostly) Millennials were focused on more than just making money. Make no mistake, this isn't a non-profit competition -- the teams intend to turn a profit. But it's not just about the money. It is about the common good as well. As Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software (and a longtime judge) told me, these students were "more about changing the world than changing the Web." And that's a shift that's hard to argue with.