For the first time, Facebook users will select the winner of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Vol Court, a contest between aspiring entrepreneurs for cash prizes to launch their business.
Voting is now under way and closes at 11 p.m. on Nov. 13. Videos of the two finalists—Nate Buchanan, an MBA student from Hendersonville, Tenn., who devised an online platform that helps students build good credit scores (Credit Virgin), and Mitchell Poythress, a junior from Antioch, Tenn., who created a mobile application to help shoppers locate food items in a grocery store (Food Find)—can be found at http://www.facebook.com/VolCourt. Anyone with a Facebook account can vote for what they think is the best business idea. The idea with the greatest number of “likes” will win first prize.
The voting coincides with Global Entrepreneurship Week, a celebration of innovators designed to connect aspiring entrepreneurs to collaborators, mentors and investors.
The first-place winner will receive $1,000 to launch its business, space at the UT Research Foundation (UTRF) business incubator, consulting services from Pershing Yoakley and Associates and mentoring from the College of Business Administration’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) —a prize package worth more than $5,000. The second-place winner will receive $500, space in the UTRF business incubator and mentoring from ACEI.
The finalists were selected Tuesday during a Vol Court pitch session at the James A. Haslam II Business Building.
Eight individuals or teams participated in the pitch session. The remaining presenters and their ideas were:
- Keith Britt—method for transforming classic cars into electric vehicles
- Andrew Busa and C.J. Tate—online management of fantasy sports teams
- Joshua Brown—mobile application that allows bar patrons to build their ideal night out on the town
- Justin Grayman—new management system that helps software managers schedule, monitor and control large and complex projects
- Kefa Lu and Jilong Liao—software platform that intelligently and dynamically matches buyers and sellers
- Brandon McKinney—price optimization service for purchasing airfares
Each was given five minutes to pitch his business idea to a panel of judges that included current and former entrepreneurs and an investment banker. The judges had three minutes to ask questions and then choose the two finalists by consensus.
Vol Court is a series of free seminars led by entrepreneurs and business experts from across the region. The series is held both in the fall and spring and is open to students, faculty and the general public. The series is based on the latest developments in entrepreneurial education emerging out of Silicon Valley.
More than 80 students, faculty, staff and university friends participated this semester, said Joy Fisher, Vol Court managing director. Student participants came from multiple colleges across the campus.
“We had 20 percent growth in participation compared to the spring semester,” she said. “This highlights the continued growth of the entrepreneurial culture here at the university and in the region, as well as the need to continue helping our aspiring entrepreneurs develop the contacts and acquire the skills needed to successfully start their own businesses.”
Vol Court is sponsored by the Anderson Center, UT Federal Credit Union, Pershing Yoakley and Associates and the UT Research Foundation.