Intern Betas wins business contest

April 15, 2015

By Josh Hafemeister

For Ulysses Smith and the rest of the members of their company, Intern Betas, winning first place in the eighth Annual Warhawk Business Plan Competition was just one more step in their company’s continued growth.

The final stage of the competition, hosted by the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, took place on Wednesday afternoon, April 8 in the University Center’s Old Main Ballroom. Intern Betas left the competition with the first place prize of $4,000.

Lucas Fiene of Infrastructure Inspectors received the second-place prize of $2,500 and Tom Gerszewski of Level Up Football received the third-place prize of $1,500.

Along with the first, second and third prizes there is what is called a “People’s Choice” award. When attendees first arrived and signed in at the Old Main entrance, they were given a handful of paper slips designed to look like mock money.

Attendees would then go around to each of the presenters’ booths before their pitch in front of a panel of judges and listen to the presenters in small-group sessions. They would then give their people’s choice dollars to whomever they thought presented best.

The student who had the most People’s Choice dollars at the end of the night won an extra $500.

William L. Dougan, professor of management in the College of Business and Economics, said the People’s Choice award gets attendees to evaluate each presenter as if they were an investor.

“Alan Kay, who is a pretty famous entrepreneur, said something I really love,” Dougan said. “‘A difference in perspectives is worth about 80 IQ points.’ The ability of lots of people to look at something, instead of just one person, you know I can give feedback, but it’s a heck of a lot better to have lots and lots of people giving their feedback instead of just me.”

In the end, Intern Betas walked away with the People’s Choice winnings as well.

Smith said he and his teammates were planning for these competitions the same time they started planning the company last summer.

“We started lining up all the competitions,” Smith said. “We actually had a huge excel list of every competition not only in Wisconsin but in other states.”

Intern Betas is an online platform whose goal is to help students find project-based internships at start-up companies. Intern Betas is starting out with local companies, but Smith said they will expand to a national level and eventually a global one.

Smith said anyone of any major is eligible to participate in Intern Betas and they don’t have to be of a major from CoBE.

“Corporations…they’re not really hiring people based off their major,” Smith said. “…When you graduate, you don’t want to sit in an interview and say ‘well I was an econ major,’ they don’t care. How can you help them innovate?”

Now that Intern Betas won the first-place prize at last week’s competition, Smith said they are looking to compete in the Idea Advance grant competition on Saturday, April 25. The grant funds from that competition can reach up to $25,000.

“It gets better and better once you leave your school,” Smith said. “Your school gives you leverage to participate in the other [competitions], especially when you’re first place.”

The Warhawks Business Plan Competition consists of three stages. The first, which was due last December, is about sharing a business idea with a panel of judges, according the competition’s website at uwwceo.com. The plan is then judged on the description of the product or service provided and  its market potential.

Then, in March, competitors must submit a two-minute video with a more refined idea of what they had in December. Competitors are judged on marketing, financial data, originality and more.

Stage three, which took place last Wednesday, is where the top six contestants are given six minutes each to pitch their start-up business plan to a panel of judges consisting of entrepreneurs and investors.

Dougan said the competition is also meant as an opportunity to meet and network with people the students wouldn’t normally encounter.

“It’s good for the students because, traditionally, it’s very difficult to get access to these guys that are giving away money,” Dougan said. “…the students get access to them and get a chance to actually have their ideas considered by someone who can make it come true.”

The competition is available to all students, not just students of CoBE.

“We encourage students to seek out faculty all across the campus,” Dougan said. “And to try to forge relationships with them because often faculty have intellectual property or ideas about how to solve problems that students can help develop.”

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