IDEA Center to encourage entrepreneurship with pitch competition
Alexandra Muck | Monday, October 1, 2018
The Notre Dame IDEA Center will be hosting its annual IDEA Challenge pitch competition Tuesday to encourage student entrepreneurship on campus and build excitement for the 2019 McCloskey New Venture Competition. Registration for the competition will start at 5:30 p.m. and pitches will start at 6 p.m. in the Mendoza College of Business.
The McCloskey New Venture Competition is an annual IDEA Center competition aimed at helping Notre Dame-affiliated entrepreneurs propose ideas and develop business plans, with competitors eligible to win cash and prizes totaling over $400,000. Tuesday’s pitch competition is intended to prep entrepreneurs for the McCloskey Competition.
Patti Reinhardt, the student entrepreneurship engagement program manager at the IDEA Center, said typically between 60 and 100 students make 60-second elevator pitches each year.
“[The pitches are] a way to get students excited about the McCloskey New Venture Competition,” she said. “We’re hoping they come, they pitch ideas, they realize there’s some value and merit in their ideas, and they want to submit those ideas through our McCloskey New Venture Competition or in our student pipeline.”
After the pitches, Reinhardt said there is a text-to-vote system for peers to select the best pitches heard. The first prize is a tailgating package, which includes $500 of Chick-fil-A food, a tent, a table and a parking pass for the Notre Dame-Florida State football game. The second prize is an Apple Watch, and 20 other prizes include $20 of Domer Dollars. In addition to the student-selected winners, there is a $150 prize for the best social idea and a $150 prize for the best healthcare idea.
Reinhardt said the event is meant to encourage students from all majors, including both undergraduate and graduate students, to think about entrepreneurship.
“No matter what it is, you should feel confident about coming and pitching an idea,” she said. “Typically when people think about entrepreneurship, they think, ‘Oh, well, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur.’ But those design students, College of Arts [and Letters] students, business students, they do have ideas. They may not think of themselves as entrepreneurs, but they certainly can have ideas and come and pitch those, and it may change their perspective.”
Reinhardt said students who don’t have an idea to pitch should still come to the event. Chick-fil-A will also be provided.
“[The event is] a great way to network with other students,” she said. “If you don’t have an idea, and you want to come and watch the pitch competition, you may see someone pitch an idea and be like ‘Hey, they have an idea for an app, maybe they need help.’”
Students should not be discouraged if they don’t receive a prize at the competition, Reinhardt said, since there are other opportunities for all ideas moving forward.
“We’re actually going to have our director of student startups and our [venture capital] coaches in the audience and watching the pitches, so they will be watching who is pitching and we’ll be reaching out to everyone after the competition to say, ‘Hey, here’s your options,’” Reinhardt said.
As her favorite part of the event, Reinhardt said she enjoys seeing students who are unsure about their ideas come to pitch and seeing their surprise when other students like their ideas.
Notre Dame students always keep others at the center of their ideas, Reinhardt said.
“I’ve been to lots of different competitions, and our students are always focused on business for good,” she said. “You see that they’re always thinking about things that can change our world, not just something that’s going to make a lot of money.”
Ultimately, Reinhardt sees the greatest benefit in keeping the event informal and relaxed and said students have said they enjoy it as well.
“It eases [students] into the world of entrepreneurship,” she said. “It’s a very relaxed environment where they feel comfortable pitching in front of the students, and it gives them some practice before they start pitching to investors or judges.”