LaunchLab at WVU Tech to host first idea pitch competition
The LaunchLab in Beckley will be hosting its very first Idea Pitch Competition on the WVU Tech campus on Thursday, February 22 at 5 p.m. in the Innovation Building.
The inaugural event invites individuals and teams from WVU Tech, Bluefield State College and Concord University to pitch their ideas for a business, product or service. Competitors will have a chance to meet with local entrepreneurs and compete for first, second or third place to earn their share of $5,000 in funding for their business idea.
Nora Myers, director of the LaunchLab at WVU Tech, said that students interested in competing must apply by Monday, February 12.
“Students who are interesting in starting a business, developing an idea into something they could sell, solving a social problem, giving back to their community or even just working further on something they developed for a class would be ideal for this competition,” said Myers.
In the last few months, Myers has seen teams take on projects ranging from biodegradable packaging, toys and a chemistry study app to a program to house the homeless.
Teams will have to make their idea pitch to a panel of judges in just four minutes. Then they’ll answer questions during a three-minute Q&A.
Students can enter individually or in teams of up to four partners.
“If you have a team of more than two people, you can decide how many want to pitch. Not everyone on the team needs to speak,” she said.
Beyond funding, Myers said students can earn practice in “communication skills, public speaking, thinking about how to solve a problem and networking and meeting new people. The competition is open to family and friends, and the audience will help on the winning pitches.
The West Virginia HIVE Network, a program of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, will host a networking reception after the event where students can meet with students, entrepreneurs and members of the local business community. The reception will also allow visitors to tour the HIVE’s Maker and Coding Labs.
For Myers, the competition is an opportunity to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of the region.
“We are excited to take a regional, collaborative approach to entrepreneurial development in Southern West Virginia, and to welcome our friends to the WVU Tech campus. We have smart, talented young people in our colleges and universities that are poised to be the job-creators of the future,” she said.
“You don’t have to leave our beautiful region to have a successful, fulfilling career doing something you love. Take your talent – and your education – and work with the resources available to make your job here. If we don’t invest in ourselves, who will?” she said.
Students who have questions can contact the LaunchLab at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304.929.1343.
For competitors: Want to make your pitch? Here’s what you need to know.
Myers has a few tips for students who want to compete.
Students should focus on the essentials as they craft their pitch:
1) the problem they are trying to solve;
2) their solution to that problem;
3) who their customers will be; and
4) a working “revenue model.”
“A revenue model is simply how they plan to make money,” said Myers. “Even if they have an idea for a non-profit, they need to generate enough funds to keep operating.”
She said that clarity is key to earning the interest of judges and investors alike.
“They should also know a bit about how the competition is currently solving that same problem. For example, you don’t have to be the only widget maker in the market, but you do need to be aware of who the other widget makers are and how they do business. Then demonstrate that there is still room in the market for more widget makers,” she said.
Myers said that teams will have to tell a clear, concise story in four minutes, and that the task isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. She recommends that teams record themselves delivering the pitch and to have friends, family or faculty provide feedback.
She also said that the LaunchLab has a video about setting up a pitch that competitors might find useful.
“A one-page application is all that’s needed. If a student has been working with a faculty member, they can list them as their advisor. Otherwise, they can list me, but they should make an appointment to come see me so we can discuss their idea and make a strong application,” she said.
For students on the fence about making a pitch for their big idea, Myers has one final tip.
“Enter! If you’re not sure about your idea, come talk to me and I’ll help you,” she said.