CU New Venture Challenge – Wolfram Law Courtroom, Wednesday Oct 29th, 2014
It’s kind of a bummer that the CU football team isn’t fantastic, but after attending the CU New Venture Challenge Pitch night last week, I’ve finally come to understand what CU’s Varsity Sport is: Innovation. We may not have an incredible team of football players, but we apparently have incredible entrepreneurial teams, and 40 of them chose to participate in the CU New Venture Challenge.
The event gives any individual or team in the Boulder area (so long as one of the team members has a CU id) the opportunity to pitch their “groundbreaking” business ideas to an audience. Piece o’ cake, right? Not so much. One member of each team is selected to pitch their idea for a mere 60 seconds to a sold-out 450-person auditorium and receive brutally honest feedback from the one and only Jim Franklin, the former CEO of SendGrid. In their 60-second pitches, students would propose their ideas and state what their team is asking for (primarily mentors and funding), essentially competing for prizes and award titles.
The third pitch was the one that got the ball rolling with the whole “pitching with notecards isn’t a thing” concept; Jim critiqued, “You would’ve been 10 times more fabulous without the paper of notes.” After that, anyone with notes was scrutinized. I got a little too emotionally invested; my heart broke every time I saw a speaker grab the mike and start their spiel literally sneaking their teeniest of teeny notecards shamefully away from the judge. You just knew it was only going to take Jim about twelve seconds to notice the cards and chase the person down and snatch them away. Once he took their notes, the remainder of the speaker’s time was spent stumbling and pausing, and there was nothing we could do except say Hail Mary’s for the poor person.
However, notes or no notes, some of the ideas were brilliant enough to make me realize that my daily habits could be either A. Facilitated, or B. Completely substituted. I perked up at the “Headphone Organizer” pitch, and even learned that I, the average consumer, spend 10 minutes a week detangling the darn things, which eventually accumulates to about two work weeks in a lifetime of detangling (according to the speaker). I was bummed this pitch didn’t get any recognition in the end, as I truly connected with it; by the end of her pitch I wanted to jump from my seat screaming, “THANK YOU, SOMEBODY GETS ME.” I hope her idea launches in the near future, because it really was that good.
While I couldn’t understand some of the other pitches due to language barriers or, if I’m being totally honest here, intellectual barriers (anything chemistry-related went way over my head), I remained in awe of everyone speaking. I admired everyone who had the guts to stand up in front of us, and I especially admired them for having such high caliber creativity. One of the speakers was even in high school. I had to take a minute and collect myself after his pitch because he definitely made me feel it was necessary to reevaluate my life. If a high school kid is thinking up this kind of stuff, what am I doing with my life?!
Aside from having the minor breakdown about knowing a local high schooler is way more advanced than I will ever be, I loved the event enough to highly recommend future NVC events to anyone; it truly makes anyone in attendance want to come up with the next big thing. Whether they were the person who couldn’t pitch without notecards, or they were the ones who started off saying “I have the next million dollar app idea,” these people were all inspirational. The CU New Venture Challenge made me want to sprint, yes, sprint to the drawing board, and that’s where anyone can find me until next year’s NVC.