USC Marshall School of Business - Llyod Grief New Venture Seed Competition - By Matthew Krendall, Dec. 22nd, 2010
Budding entrepreneurs representing a cross-section of the university were awarded more than $50,000 to help launch new businesses Dec. 2 as part of the sixth annual New Venture Seed Competition sponsored by the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business.
Of the 80 teams and approximately 200 students who submitted business proposals hoping to start the next Kinko's or Pinkberry or Myspace.com - a few of the many renowned companies founded by USC alumni - 12 finalists presented their ideas to seasoned investors.
On the volunteer judging panel were Lloyd Greif, president and chief executive officer of the investment banking firm Greif & Co.; Rob Ukropina, founder of Overnite Express; Thomas J. Leary, securities partner at the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP; Fred M. Haney, venture capitalist and president of The Venture Management Co.; and Robert Aholt, vice chairman of the investment capital group Pasadena Angels.
In previous years, the competition had separate categories for undergraduates and graduate/faculty levels. Bryce Benjamin, chief executive officer-in-residence at the Lloyd Greif Center and the organizer of this year's competition, decided to eliminate the separate categories. This way, the competition functioned much more like the real world.
In the real world, Benjamin said, entrepreneurs compete for funding against the world's best regardless of age, education or experience.
"I think the students were extremely impressive,” said Greif, the founding donor of the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. "The finalists were a nice mix of businesses, ranging from consumer products to technology to social entrepreneurship Internet ventures. Most had very compelling market needs that they were addressing with unique solutions. These were not theoretical or hypothetical companies. These were the real deal."
SPORTING-SAILS by Sukrafte LLC, which was founded by Nick Smith, a senior in USC Marshall's entrepreneurial studies program, and his brother Billy, also was awarded grand prize.
The company already has sold 200 Sporting-Sails worldwide since obtaining a design patent in April for a kind of body parachute that skateboarders, snowboarders and skiers can use to reduce their speed and maneuver treacherous terrain.
Their business was inspired by their grandfather, H. W. Smith Jr., who in 1977, manufactured a similar product called the Ski-Klipper, which had been modeled after the device created by Italian skier Leo Gasperl in the 1930s and ’40s.
The brothers plan to use the seed money from the competition to develop new styles and colors as well as a pro model that would allow professional skateboarders to push the boundaries of the craft further. They also plan to apply for a utility patent to protect their design.
Speaking about the competition, the Smiths said they appreciated the recognition from business leaders with vast business experience as much as the award.
“We have people who know more than we'll ever know who believe in us, and it kind of helps me believe in myself,” Nick Smith said. “It's hard to imagine what avenue this is going to take going forward from here but, with a little cash in our pockets, I don't think there's anything stopping us anymore.”
Nick and Billy Smith present a case to a panel of judges to gain funding for their business, SPORTING-SAILS
Long Distance Skateboarding - Downhill Skate, Ski, Snow Body Sails, Parachutes, Capes & Kites - Bird Man Longboarding Wing Suits, Longboard Wing Suits - Nick & Billy Smith - As Seen On LegalZoom TV Commercial!Original Artwork by Charlie Donalson
Downhill Skateboarding, Skiing & Snowboarding Wing Suits, Body Sails, Parachutes, Kites & Chutes - The Original Downhill SPORTING-SAIL - Skateboard, Ski, Snowboard Wingsuit, Body Sail, ParachuteSPORTING-SAILS is a member of 1% For The Planet © 2007-2013 Sukräfte, LLC (Surf + Skate = Sukrafte) - A California Company - All Rights Reserved - Patent No. US D613,316 S - Deploy & Enjoy!