Mendoza School of Business

60-second entrepreneurs

Published: October 22, 2015 / Author: Christine Cox

Sean Kibbe

Sean Kibbe is a seasoned business strategist, innovation expert and tech entrepreneur.

But tonight he’s just Number 5.

It’s Ideas Challenge night at Notre Dame, where students — grad or undergrad, business or non-business — line up to give 60-second business pitches. There’s no advanced paperwork, no preliminary screening. It’s basically an open mic night for entrepreneurs. This year it lands on October 6.

Top prize is $500, determined by audience vote. The next four best ideas receive a Go-Pro video camera. Various cash prizes, gift cards and even mentoring opportunities await top participants.

And Kibbe — a one-year MBA student — is ready to pitch.

He takes the microphone, introduces himself and presents his idea: a thin plastic that’s wrapped around a vehicle to reduce surface drag by 40 percent.

“That’s astronomical,” Kibbe says, efficiently elaborating on subsequent fuel savings and environmental mitigation.

He explains the technology behind his patented wrap — it incorporates nano-sized mushroom-shaped pockets molded into the plastic — and projected revenues — $4.5 billion. He concludes by explaining the wrap can also be used on cars, trains and other forms of transportation.

He receives applause and watches the rest of the competition with a few MBA friends.


Fifty-eight other students pitch ideas ranging from a machine that perfectly mixes drinks to an app that distributes excess food to charities to swimsuit technology that eliminates tan lines. There are many ideas for mobile apps and a large number of pitches that address social, health or environmental concerns.

Rose Walsh

After an hour, it’s time for results. Kibbe’s technology is voted one of the top five ideas, and he walks away with a video camera. An MBA friend, Ryan Cody, receives $50 for the best health care idea, an app that would allow people to donate blood in the privacy of their own home.

The audience grants the top prize to an undergraduate business senior, Rose Walsh, who pitches the concept of a multi-owner vineyard called Unity Vineyards that would allow people to bottle their own wine.

“You get to brand your own wine, you get to own your own vineyard and visit it when you want,” Walsh explains. “But you share the huge costs and input time for running a vineyard.”

Sophomore business major Dennis Miller decides at the last minute to pitch his idea for a social app called Shout. The app would identify people nearby who might want to meet up but not romantically — maybe for dinner or to practice speaking in a foreign language. The friendship app was named one of seven promising online media ideas, earning Miller a $100 prize and an opportunity to work with experts at Innovation Park Notre Dame.

“This isn’t too bad, especially considering I wasn’t going to pitch,” says Miller, who came up with the concept about two hours before the competition. “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Dennis Miller

And MBA student Kibbe is pleased. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “It was exciting to see such interesting ideas from other students. Exposure to new ideas can spark further brainstorming and even collaboration.”


The point of the Ideas Challenge is to prime participation for the McCloskey Business Plan Competition, a signature event also sponsored by the Notre Dame Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship. The contest allows participants to network with highly influential entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists as they compete to win up to $300,000 in cash and prizes. With a grand prize of $25,000 cash, the competition starts November 1 and features four highly competitive rounds that end in April. The event also features a highly coveted $10,000 prize for the best undergraduate team effort.

And Number 5 is gearing up.

“When I first started at Mendoza, it was very clear how much opportunity there was for the business students,” he says. “McCloskey is a perfect example. As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t ask for a better stage to present the technology and business plan I’ve been working on. Tonight was a good warm-up!” 

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