Last evening’s First Annual Shark Tank competition, sponsored by the Holy Cross Entrepreneurs Group and Ciocca Office of Entrepreneurial Studies, was a resounding success. With registration somewhat uncertain right up until the event started, no one in the room was totally sure what to expect, but by the end of the night the feeling was unanimous – these Holy Cross students had some really great ideas!
The night kicked off with pizza and soda and the room was filled not just with competitors but spectators who showed up to see what their classmates had managed to come up with for ideas. Seniors Andrew Coury and Ed Pesce, co-chairs of the HC Entrepreneurs Group on campus, were in charge of planning this event and they recruited quite an esteemed panel of alumni judges to give feedback – both positive and negative – to the student teams participating. These judges included: Mary Moran ‘77, Patrick Sansonetti ‘93, John Schiffmann ‘82, Chris Stephenson ‘97 and Bryan Sparkes ‘04.
Unlike the television version of Shark Tank, the HC competition didn’t involve a lot of yelling but that didn’t stop the judges from asking critical questions and really challenging the students to think about how, exactly, their business would work.
In all, there were 5 pitches – two teams and three individuals – and the ideas included a dorm delivery service where students could order necessities and have them delivered in under an hour, a service to help people more successfully embrace the tailgating experience, an autodetailing company that would come to your home or work to clean your car, and a video game where the player assumed the character of a dog and faced “dog-like” challenges.
However, at the end of the night, it was freshman Ben Kaplan who walked away with the $100 prize for the top idea. Not only had Kaplan clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about how, exactly, his idea for a new social media platform would work but he had already come up with a clever acronym for the name of the product and had a logo. (Specifics are being omitted because Kaplan is in the process of working to actually get this idea off the ground and this blogger doesn’t want to be accused of “over sharing”!) To give you an idea of how impressed the judges were with Kaplan’s presentation, let’s just say that when he was awarded top prize one of the alumni judges offered him the chance to get in a room with real investors and do a formal pitch.
The other great thing about this event was not only did the students give impressive presentations, but the alumni all took the opportunity to use their professional experiences to give the students in the ro0m insight and advice on how to go about launching a successful idea. One of the favorite take aways from the night was Chris Stephenson’s advice on how to make $1 million: ”Figure out how to make $1. Then do it one million times.” Sounds pretty simple, right?
Overall, a great night. The level of excitement was definitely high as people left the competition and lots of people indicated that they are looking forward to seeing this grow into an annual event at Holy Cross. If the ideas that keep coming in the future are as strong as last night’s, there’s no doubt that Shark Tank will become even more competitive and, hopefully, attract a growing number of students to take the risk, come up with an idea and participate.
Thank you to all the judges, student participants and spectators for taking the time to come out and we’ll see you again next year for Shark Tank Round #2.
Associate Director, Entrepreneurial Studies