MBA student team wins investors' approval

Author: Rachel Reynolds

What does a venture capitalist want to know?

Is the system functional?
Is your idea patented or patent pending?
Are you cash flow positive?
When do you break even – on the first customer or the 100 th?
Notre Dame’s entrepreneurial LicketyShip team anticipated these questions and won the first-place $15,000 prize in this year’s Notre Dame McCloskey Business Plan Competition, and they finished second out of 250 teams in the Jungle Business Plan Competition in Mountain View, California, winning $10,000 worth of legal advice. Judges for both competitions were venture capitalists, lawyers, and business leaders.

LicketyShip offers internet shopping with same-day delivery. Through customized software, LicketyShip connects online shoppers with local retailers and an area courier service. Customers have the ability to search for products available within a certain zip code. When an item is purchased, LicketyShip covers the distance from store to a customer’s door within two to four hours. Target customers include busy consumers who value convenience over price and business customers who would rather pay a premium than lose a worker’s productivity to run an errand. The company's website is at

Potential LicketyShip business partners include Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, Tech Data, Better World Books and others.

In crediting the group’s success, team member Sarah Coffman said not only does a team need to have a great idea to win business case competitions, but it also must know how to present the idea in a way that anticipates and answers venture capitalists’ questions.

“From last year’s (McCloskey) competition, and … from the Venture Capitalist Fundamentals class, (we learned) about what venture capitalists are looking for when they evaluate a plan,” she said. “And so we knew what areas to focus on. What questions to expect. What flow they’re used to seeing.”

Added team member Justin Carter: “Yes, the Venture Capital class definitely taught us to speak their language … there are touch points that they want to have in every presentation. And we’ve definitely gotten really good at focusing on those and getting to the things that matter to them.”

MBA 2005 graduates Coffman, Carter, and Radu Olievschi along with business graduate Christopher Kelly (’05), engineering graduate Aaron Wenger (’05) and political science alum Robert Pazornik (‘02), now a Yale University Ph.D. student, developed LicketyShip this year after countless hours of brainstorming.

Their work was incubated through Notre Dame’s Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies with the guidance of Professors Jeff Bernel and Carolyn Boulger and Instructor Theresa Sedlack. It has also been encouraged by Notre Dame’s Irish Angels Network, a group of alumni and friends of the university who provide executive mentoring and sometimes seed money to student entrepreneurial ventures. Irish Angel and Gigot Advisory Board Member Tim Connors (’89) mentored the LicketyShip plan. Pazornik is currently serving as CEO of the new business. The site goes live this summer and will be beta tested in South Bend. The team is currently in negotiations with Best Buy for LicketyShip to be rolled out in additional Best Buy pilot cities. MBA graduates Coffman, Carter and Olievschi are pursuing the entrepreneurial start-up and plan to enter the Fortune Small Business magazine business case competition this summer.

Olievschi said the initial up-front investment the team needed to get the business up and running was about $500,000. “Most of that money actually goes into customer acquisition,” he said, “because everything else is ready. We’ve got the partnerships, we’ve got the software, we’ve got the couriers lined up.”

In all, 65 teams competed in the McCloskey Competition April 28-29, 2005, which LicketyShip won. Coffman, Carter and Olievschi were also members of the Flash Seats team that won last year’s McCloskey Competition, taking home $15,000. Flash Seats was designed to issue, transfer and redeem athletic and entertainment event tickets electronically.

In the Jungle Case Competition in April, organized by Jungle Media Group and Fenwick and West LLP, Notre Dame’s LicketyShip finished second after a University of Michigan team. Notre Dame eclipsed teams from Northwestern, Columbia, Yale, Cornell, Duke, Brigham Young, New York, George Washington, Boston and Carnegie Melon universities; the universities of California at Berkeley, Chicago, Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin and a second Michigan team; as well as teams from MIT and UCLA among others.