On Tuesday, March 2, 2013 Saint Mary’s College School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA) held it’s Second Annual Business Idea Competition on campus. Seven MBA students and alumni with entrepreneurial inspirations were selected from 16 applicants to present their business idea to a panel of experienced investors from the Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest angel investor network, at the Business Idea Competition.

Professor Berna Aksu, director of the Center for Regional Economy and Stull Family Professorship in Entrepreneurship, welcomed the over 100 attendees, sponsors and esteemed judges. This year the format changed slightly allowing each presenter exactly two minutes to pitch their idea; four minutes for Q&A; and four minutes of invaluable feedback from the judges and established angle investors. This year’s judges consisted of the following esteemed investors:

  • Eric Clarke, partner at HansonBridgett and a technology and licensing committee member at the Keiretsu Forum with a JD from the University of the Pacific and a BA from Saint Mary’s College;
  • Shirley Gee, a retiree of the executive university officer and department head at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, an active investor with Keiretsu Forum and strategic consultant to start-ups in life science, technology, and service sectors, and she has her BA in Business Management and MBA from Saint Mary’s College;
  • Dan Miller, Dan Miller is currently the chief investment officer with Cloud-Mobile-Social and a serial entrepreneur serving as co-founder & C-level executive in the successful growth and exit of several ventures including ICA, Vivagy, MDC Corp., and MTM;
  • Paul Twombly, general partner with XF Ventures where he is actively involved in advising and investing in seed and early stage companies and an active member in several preeminent angel groups including the Keiretsu Forum, the Band of Angels and The Angels Forum;
  • Steve Vigar, managing partner and co-founder of Pacific States Environmental Contractors, developing sustainable projects that include waste to energy systems in the western U.S. with the DOD (Department of Defense) and SDVSB (Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business) that helps create value for veterans that are building and is an active member of the Keiretsu Forum serving as Director of Global Brands.

The Master of Ceremonies was the founder and CEO of the Keiretsu Forum and Saint Mary’s alumnus, Randy Williams. Williams, a dynamic MC, navigated the evening and transitioned the presenters and judges seamlessly while engaging the audience in the Q&A and feedback sessions for each presenter.

This year’s Saint Mary’s “shark tank” pitches ranged from IP designs that makes the user experience on mobile devices more organized, easily controlled, and accessed safer to developing a sustainable supply company for organic seaweed livestock feed from Asia. In an exciting turn of events after seven pitches there was a tie for first place. Williams organized a impromptu “pitch-off” in which the presenters were given two minutes to recap the most important feedback they were given from the judges and articulate how they were going to use the feedback to further their ideas.

The winner of the evening was Michael Woodcox, developer of a modular system with extremely high thermal performance and rapid assembly that produces sustainable panelized wall systems transforming the traditional method plagued by quality control problems, air leaks and poor thermal performance to meet California’s mandate for “net zero” houses by 2020. This year’s awards were graciously sponsored by Northwestern Mutual (Walnut Creek, Pleasanton). Thanks to Northwestern Mutual, Michael took home the first place prize of $2,500, three hours of “partner-time” legal consulting at HansonBridgett and  the coveted opportunity to present at the invitation only Angel Expo, a premier gathering of the angel capital community hosted by the Keiretsu Forum this May. First runner up and recipient of $1,000 was Lonnie Coleman who presented Thumbspins, IP designs that makes the user experience on mobile devices more organized. Second runner up went to Gint Federas who presented MuscleMax, a device developed to help his son with cerebral palsy that uses the body’s own spark to fire muscles longer and harder to lose weight, build muscle strength, and improve athletic performance as you walk, run, or train.

Unique this year, the School of Economics and Business Administration also introduced a $1,000 audience prize and allowed the audience to text in their vote for their favorite presenter which was tallied and displayed in front of the audience. The audience selected Chris Phan who presented Spec-Box, a web-based tool and database solution that aid small to mid-sized businesses with the development and management of customized packaging components.

Overall, the presenters and the audience learned a lot from the feedback given by the judges: “Know your customer and speak to your investor; explain the expertise of your team, be clear about your revenue model, and be sure to make the ask (for what capital or resources you need).”

Take a look at the photo recap of the Business Idea Competition. If you’d like to see the video from the evening, click here.

About Keiretsu Forum
Keiretsu Forum is the world’s largest angel investor network with 850 accredited investor members throughout twenty one chapters on three continents. Since Keiretsu Forum’s founding in 2000, its members have invested over $260m in companies in technology, consumer products, healthcare/life sciences, real estate and other segments with high growth potential. Forum members collaborate in the due diligence, but make individual investment decisions, with rounds in the range of $250k-$2m. Keiretsu Forum’s community is strengthened through education on angel investing, as well as charitable giving. Forum members have donated over $1m to over 100 non-profit organizations.

About Saint Mary’s College School of Economics and Business Administration 
Founded in 1863, Saint Mary’s College of California is a cornerstone institution of the San Francisco bay area.  After nearly 150 years, with a network of more than 40,000 alumni worldwide, Saint Mary’s tradition of educational excellence is stronger than ever. Saint Mary’s School of Economics and Business Administration is grounded in this same rich history and tradition of excellence.  With a focus on global perspective and responsible business, all of our five distinct graduate business degree programs are designed for working professionals who seek the knowledge and skills needed to accelerate their careers.  Small class sizes facilitate collaboration, accessibility, and engaging discussions with our distinguished faculty, and an interactive learning environment focused on practical business knowledge, serves to provide our students with the maximum return on their investment.

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