Entrepreneurs vie for seed money in race for Olin Cup

The number of teams competing for the Olin Cup was whittled down to five finalists Nov. 19 in the “elevator pitch” stage of the race for $70,000 in seed money to start a new company.

Three of the finalist teams are student-supported and in the running for an additional $5,000 prize given to the best business proposal submitted by a Washington University student team.

A record-breaking 38 teams entered the annual business formation contest this year, which is operated by the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

“We’re very excited in the growth of the competition, particularly among teams that are either founded by or supported by students,” said Ken Harrington, the center’s managing director. “A number of teams who submitted executive summaries were also funded or supported by Washington University faculty and alumni. Our teams will receive valuable feedback from the judges through every stage of the process.”

All contestants are required to submit an executive summary of their proposed business when they enter the competition. From that initial field of 38 entrants, 16 semifinalists were chosen to compete in the “elevator pitch” challenge that requires a two- minute presentation of the business idea to a team of judges.

This year’s finalists (* indicates student-owned or student-supported venture):

• Mindfullgames.com proposes expanding its marketing and distribution of interactive vocabulary-training games to retail stores nationally;

• Sequoia Music* plans to create and distribute a copy of an artist’s performance to concertgoers as they exit a venue;

• You Are the Star Products LLC is creating personalized books and products that will feature children’s photographs;

• Verto Medical Solutions LLC* is developing technology to digitally scan ears, enabling the sale of custom fit earbuds used in MP3 players and cell phone headsets; and

• Virtual Nerd* offers online tutoring services using video and multimedia content to help high- school and college students master physics and calculus.

The final hurdle for the entrepreneurs will be writing and presenting a full business plan in January. The Olin Cup winners will be announced Feb. 5, 2009, at an awards ceremony.

The Olin Cup was created as a cross-campus activity in 1987 by the Olin Business School. The competition is sponsored by Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP; the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association; RubinBrown; Lopata, Flegel & Company LLP; Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus PC; Senniger Powers LLP; and the Olin Business School.