Fantasy Sports idea wins Dolan Business Plan Competition
“Fantasy Squared,” an innovative idea for a web resource to empower fantasy sports game players, won first place at Fairfield University’s 4th Annual Business Plan Competition. The event was held March 31 after six months of preparation that included a semi-final round, an elevator pitch contest, and multiple meetings with mentors. The Fairfield University undergraduates behind that idea - Martin Gallagher ’15, a mechanical engineering major, and Eric Iannaconne ’15, a software engineering major - received $12,000 in prize money at the finals attended by a standing room only crowd at the Dolan School of Business.
“This would be a great addition to the fantasy sports market,” said Gallagher, whose team was mentored by Matt Powers ’03 and Dan Leitao ’12.
“Assimilation Integration,” a seminar for Chinese students entering the United States to understand American culture and pursue their academics, took second place and $8,000 in prize money. The team founders are two undergraduate students from China - Jia Wang, an accounting and management major from Shanghai, and Wenpu Tu, a mathematics major. “It’s basically a camp to transfer the Chinese lifestyle into the U.S. lifestyle,” said Wang, whose team was mentored by Kathi Mettler, from the Accounting Department. “It will share practical tips for living in the U.S., for instance.”
The prize money is envisioned to serve as start-up funds for new businesses.
The finalists included an imaginative group of self-starting undergraduate and graduate students from the Dolan School of Business, the School of Engineering and College of Arts & Sciences who pooled their knowledge and skill sets to develop business plans. Contenders included a number of international students this year, including graduate engineering students from India who pitched “Bollywood Bee,” a mobile app for lovers of Bollywood movies. Also in the final mix were Africa Requests, PicScor, Launch Pad, PediU, and YourOwn.University.
The heat was on as each of the eight of 14 semifinalist teams of students from across the University got six minutes to pitch their plan for a new business – with ideas ranging from a pedicab service to a resource to help students get matched to the right college to an idea to help companies utilize Instagram data analytics for marketing purposes. Other plans called for a resource to help nonprofits find sustainable channels of capital, as well as a company to help consumers in Ghana purchase iPhones and other products that they cannot otherwise buy without incurring big fees. The teams covered their value proposition, partners, revenue stream, cost structure and more.
A panel of five venture capital experts, entrepreneurs, and alumni judged the plans and awarded the teams they believed have the most viable plans.
Dr. Donald E. Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, said the field of proposed companies showed great promise and were all “worthy of investment.” “We hoped we would have ideas for companies that are economically viable and led by students who are going to make them a business, and we got them,” Dr. Gibson told the audience of more than 200. “Each year the student teams get more impressive. You should all be proud of your hard work.”
Associate Professor Chris Huntley, who co-chaired the competition with Dolan School colleague Dr. Mukesh Sud, encouraged all the students by sharing that successful entrepreneurs are exceptionally resilient, able to handle “no” from 20 people before getting the first “maybe.” “Never let 'no' be the end of it,” he said after the winners were announced. “Always keep learning and getting better, or else what's the point? Often the 'no' is more about that audience and the time than it is about you and your idea. So treat each 'no' as an opportunity to get to a 'yes' that you can be truly proud of.”
The competition kicked off last fall to much fanfare. Faculty served as advisors to student teams as did business professionals and alumni. The competition was made possible by generous donations from Joseph Bronson ’70; Hugh Davis ’95; Chris Stephens, and Lisa Cowell Shams ’87. Sponsors included BlumShapiro, criticalmix, independentsoftware, BlackStag Consulting, and Fairfield University Accelerator & Mentoring Enterprise (FAME). David Murray, vice president, Integrated Sales and Marketing, NCM Media Networks, helped to coordinate mentorship, and Patricia Pivarnik, program coordinator, facilitated with logistics.
The competition has introduced “a whole new style of learning” to students interested in entrepreneurism at Fairfield, and speaks to the robust enthusiasm among students campus-wide to start their own businesses. That widespread passion has led to new courses in entrepreneurship and a minor available to all students, and to FAME, a business incubator program that was launched with the Town of Fairfield Economic Development Department and Kleban Properties.
For more information about all who made the competition happen, visit http://is-dsb.fairfield.edu/fbp/ .
Image [L-R]: Martin Gallagher ’15, a mechanical engineering major, and Eric Iannaconne ’15, a software engineering major, won the 2015 competition.