In an effort to foster the entrepreneurial spirit at Boston College, four students met with one goal: To create the school’s premier undergraduate business competition. Six years later, the Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC) continues to thrive.
WePay, launched by BCVC co-founder Bill Clerico and alum Rich Aberman, has raised roughly $9.5 million in funding from Highland Capital, and was named one of BusinessWeek’s “Young Technology Entrepreneurs” for 2011.
Jebbit, a BCVC winner from last year, was accepted into the Summer@HIGHLAND program, receiving $15,000 in seed money, and garnering 1,500 unique visitors within the first two hours of going live the day they launched their beta version back in October.
With success stories like that, it’s clear why the Competition’s continued to grow, nearly tripling in size from when it first began. This year, 40 teams pitched their ideas, but only five made it into the semi-final round of judging. And last night, only three walked away with their piece of the $15,000 in total prize money.
Taking third place — and $2,000 — was Maji. Standing for “water” in Swahili, Maji is a water bottle company working to solve the world’s water crisis. For every 1,000 Maji bottles sold, Maji provides a well for a village in a developing nation. The team was winner of the “Audience Choice Award” at BCVC’s Elevator Pitch Contest, and has since begun spreading their message to other campuses, including the University of Richmond and New York University.
Coming in second, winning $3,000, was Green Lightning Surfboards. Designed to provide the “eco-friendliest wave-riding experience,” the company creates custom surfboards made from recycled, organic and bio-derived materials. Over the last few months, the company’s already acquired and served their first four customers and have engineered a vacuum bagging system.
Walking away with the $10,000 grand prize, however, was Namib Beetle Design, a biomimicry-inspired product based on the Namib Desert Beetle that uses nanotechnology to trap water from condensation to produce a sustainable method of collecting clean drinking water.
Co-founder Miguel Galvez said they’ll be using the money to nail down their nano material and manufacture a prototype. For now, though, they’re reveling in the win. “I don’t think I can stop smiling,” said fellow co-founder Deckard Sorensen.
The judges included: Greg Dracon, principal at .406 Ventures; David Orfao, managing director at General Catalyst Partners; Hugh Crean, entrepreneur-in-residence at General Catalyst; Lee Hower, partner at NextView Ventures; Dan Nova, partner at Highland Capital; and Boston College Professor Mike Naughton.
Orfao, who claimed he sees 600 business plans from young entrepreneurs per year, said he was impressed by what he saw at the Competition, telling the crowd, “You should all be very proud.” What venture capital firms are looking for, according to Orfao, are “change the world ideas,” and he remarked he saw a piece of those big ideas in everyone’s pitch last night.
Crean, a Boston College alum, admitted he “loves everything about BCVC,” because he sees entrepreneurship as a viable career option for everyone, despite their major. “You’ve just got to dream and realize you can change the world,” he said.
For the last six years, BCVC Faculty Advisor Larry Meile has helped students realize they can change the world, and was given a special thanks during the Competition. After 15 years, Meile is preparing to retire from the College, but he hopes to write a few recommendations before he goes.
He said he’s desperately wanted to sell his students to the world, but hasn’t been given the opportunity, because they’ve all landed jobs after graduation. That’s proven to be a testament to the program, however. Fellow Faculty Advisor John Gallaugher called it “world class,” saying, “we’re going to keep doing it in the Meile legacy.”
And if all follows in the Meile legacy, each winning team will continue to see quick success. Congratulations, Namib Beetle Design!
Photos Courtesy of John Gallaugher