Sixty seconds isn’t a long time. Especially when you’re pitching an idea for a new business venture to an audience of more than 200, all of whom are there to judge your idea. And even more nerve wracking is the fact that the countdown clock looms large over your head, ready to sound the official — and very loud — alarm when your time runs out.
Still, 66 students, some of them in teams, lined up on October 5 in Mendoza’s Jordan Auditorium to deliver their pitches at the 2016 Ideas Challenge, sponsored by the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship.
Open to undergraduates and graduate program students, including those enrolled in the MBA program, the Ideas Challenge offers a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to learn how to take an idea for a new venture and develop it into a concise business plan, a.k.a. an “elevator pitch” — a skill that primes them for successful networking in the real world of business.
And it was Jackson Jhin, an economics major, who won the crowd over with his idea for an app that stores your “loose change” on your phone. His idea, aptly named PennyWise, leverages Near Field Communication (NFC) and Apple Pay technology to store your coin change in an app. Coincidentally, as the grand-prize winner, Jhin won an Apple watch.
“I had to practice a lot to get a pitch that was exactly 60 seconds long and still allowed me to say everything I needed to say,” Jhin says. “It took several revisions. I realized there were small details that weren’t necessary, and I just needed to convey the idea as simply and concisely as possible.”
Jhin got the idea for the app when a friend kept lamenting about how he loses his extra change all the time. But it wasn’t until Jhin heard about the Ideas Challenge that he put some serious thought to developing a solution to his friend’s problem.
Here’s how PennyWise works: You go to the grocery store and when you pay, you’re due back $0.84 in change. Instead of taking the coins, you touch your phone to an NFC/Apple Pay enabled sensor pad and the money goes into your PennyWise account.
Rounding out the top-five pitches for the Ideas Challenge was ThermalGreen Solutions, an idea conceived by Bill O’Hayer from the University’s College of Science, and pitched by MBA student Chelsea Germeyan.
The idea behind ThermalGreen Solutions is to place special devices in vacant buildings and homes to prevent the heat from running unless there’s a real threat of pipes freezing.
“Experts recommend that you leave your thermostat at 55 degrees Fahrenheit if you plan to leave your home empty for any length of time in the winter,” Germeyan explains. “Currently there are no thermostats on the market that allow you to set the indoor temperature right to the brink of freezing. This device, however, does just that, and when the outdoor temperature drops below freezing, it gradually turns up the heat, cutting back on 45 percent of the energy expended while still protecting the pipes.”
So far, a partner engineer has developed multiple prototypes of the ThermalGreen Solutions device, and the ThermalGreen team has successfully collected data from different types of buildings in various locations throughout the Midwest.
“We have three patents pending,” Germeyan says.
Comprised of representatives from the University’s College of Science, College of Engineering as well as the Mendoza College of Business, TeamThermalGreen is a perfect example of the unique collaboration opportunities available to undergraduates and graduate students who have an interest in entrepreneurship and business.
“Our team is ready to take our new business venture plan to the next level — the McCloskey Business Plan competition — and soon to market,” Germeyan says.
The McCloskey Business Plan competition is a six-month contest that awards $300,000 in cash and prizes each year. The competition — open to Notre Dame students, faculty and alumni —consists of four rounds that grow increasingly detailed and in-depth. The Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship, which sponsors the competition, connects teams with business experts from the Irish Entrepreneurs Network to serve as mentors to the teams as they develop their business models and hone their business plans.
For complete details, visit the McCloskey Business Plan Competition website.