Club encourages enterprising students

Steven Schultz

Princeton NJ -- Students convinced they have the idea for The Next Big Thing or convinced they'll have the idea someday have a home in the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club.

The student organization is holding its third annual business plan contest, in which students conceive of a business idea and pitch it to a panel of leading venture capitalists. The winning teams receive a total of $10,000.

"The idea is to give students the experience of writing a business plan and presenting it in front of venture capitalists," said Adrienne Clark, a junior who is co-directoring the contest with sophomore Phil Michaelson. "We hope that it helps students understand how venture capitalists think."

About 20 teams, with two to three students each, have signed up for the contest, which concludes Saturday, April 21, with a daylong series of presentations and the final judging. The public is encouraged to attend the final presentations at 1 p.m. in Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall. More details are available on the club's Web site at <>.

Contestants prepare a detailed plan describing their idea, the market and their strategies for implementation. They also write an "elevator talk" a synopsis so short and snappy that it could be delivered during the course of a chance meeting with a prospective investor in an elevator.

On the final judging day, contestants will deliver their elevator talks in the morning and then meet with judges for one-on-one grilling sessions. The judges narrow the group to a smaller pool of presenters for the final public forum, from which they choose the top three teams.

The Entrepreneurship Club was founded in 1998 by several students and Ed Zschau, an entrepreneur and visiting lecturer in electrical engineering. It now has about 80 members who organize several speakers each year and participate in the business plan contest. Ly Tran '92, founder of the Internet company @hoc, spoke to the group in November, providing the official kick-off for the contest.

In preparing for the contest, the club sponsored a meeting with venture capitalists at Princeton-based Domain Associates, a venture capital firm focusing on healthcare businesses. General partner Arthur Klausner '82 and analyst Nicholas Sadron showed students a business plan they recently had funded and walked them through the process of how the plan was developed and improved.

For many students, this brush with successful entrepreneurship is one of the contest's major attractions.

"There's always the secret hope that if you have a really good idea a venture capitalist will take an interest, and it will go beyond the contest," said Clark.


April 2, 2001
Vol. 90, No. 22
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