By Douglas M. Stayman, Associate Professor of Marketing, Associate Dean for Cornell Tech MBA Program
Spring is in the air, and Cornell Tech MBA students working in cross-functional teams in the Startup Studio are transforming innovative concepts into working prototypes.
Later this semester, some of these student teams will present their ideas to a committee of venture capitalists, in a bid to win one of up to four grand prizes in the second annual Startup Competition.
The process truly began last fall, when Cornell Tech MBA students first got acquainted with their engineering and computer science colleagues in the Startup Ideas course. Groups of two to four students formed teams and began developing their startup ideas this spring.
We expect to receive over twenty applications for this year’s Startup Competition, and selected teams will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the judging panel at Cornell Tech in May. Up to four winning teams will receive $100,000 in seed money (presented in two tranches), plus twelve months of co-working space at a Cornell Tech facility, allowing them to continue to iterate their concepts post-graduation.
This is the second year of the Startup Competition. One of last year’s winning teams, Trigger Finance, has spent the past year building out its concept and recently raised a successful pre-seed round of financing. Trigger Finance has created a FinTech app that allows investors to trade off of “if than/then that” type statements to take advantage of market volatility in an intelligent, automated fashion.
Aaron Holiday MBA ’12 serves as Cornell Tech’s Managing Entrepreneurial Officer. With a background in computer science and experience working in the venture capital sector, he is helping to coordinate and build the infrastructure and resources of our new school. He also oversees the Startup Competition, and sees real, tangible benefits to student participants:
“Teams get an opportunity to pursue entrepreneurship,” says Holiday. “Many of the founders who apply for startup awards have job offers at great companies like Google or Facebook, and have a hard time turning down those offers to pursue their own startup idea. We make it a little easier for graduates to pursue that track, and begin their entrepreneurial journey.”
Startup Competition judges analyze several criteria in selecting the winning concepts. These include: a well-balanced and functionally diverse team makeup, future funding potential and likely market impact. There is also a preference for New York City-based startups, as well as teams that have gone through the optional “spin-out clinic”, a program that helps students understand the keys to startup success such as legal entity formation, raising capital, and branding best practices.
“The students have to build their own teams,” Holiday says. “They have to do their own budget, their own marketing, and build their own technology. They have to build culture. When you go work for a very large, established corporation you don’t have that level of responsibility.
“Putting our students into these startup scenarios immediately following the completion of their degrees really tests their leadership ability in ways that you just can’t get in a corporation.”