Five groups of entrepreneurs won Venture Development Awards at the inaugural LaunchU Accelerator Pitch Competition on January 26. Four ventures received $4,000 in support of their business development: BinStored, Bookalokal, CnXn, and Compology. A fifth team, Kenya Reads, was recognized with an honorable mention award of $1,000.
The pitch competition was the culmination of LaunchU, a program of the Creativity & Leadership Project, in which alumni and current student entrepreneurs spent three weeks developing their ideas and business plans. The program included intensive workshops focused on such issues as business model innovation; early-stage financial matters; legal issues; branding, positioning, and marketing; and presentation skills. And perhaps most importantly, LaunchU offered participants the opportunity to connect with and get feedback from a team of distinguished mentors from northeast Ohio and the Oberlin network.
During the competition, an adjudication panel of five investors entertained pitches from the 28 current students and alumni behind LaunchU’s 15 ventures. The pitches were made before a public audience in Clonick Hall. Members of the investor panel were Charles Birenbaum ’79, a labor and employment partner and managing partner of the San Francisco office of Winston & Strawn, LLP; Eugene Carr ’82, founder and president of Patron Technology; Edward Fishman ’73, managing director at Cain Brothers & Company, LLC; Jeff Hanson ’80, president of Hanson Advisors Corp.; Andrew Klingenstein, cofounder of Fairfax Partners LLC; and Joseph Rubin, founder and senior partner of Rubin & Bailin LLP and director of Executive Training International, LLC.
The event also featured a keynote address by Tom Kelley ’77. General manager of IDEO, the design and innovation firm he cofounded with his brother, Kelley spoke on how to nurture a culture of innovation, a topic on which he is known as an expert world wide. He has written two best-selling books, The Art of Innovation (2001) and The Ten Faces of Innovation (2005).
More details about LaunchU and the Creativity & Leadership Program are available on their websites, www.oberlin.edu/launchU and www.oberlin.edu/creativity.
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