Chances are Temple’s next successful entrepreneur has never listened to a business professor explain the finer points of business administration and may not even know where the Fox School of Business and Management is located.
Despite their relative inexperience, business-minded students, faculty and alumni have the opportunity to test their entrepreneurial acumen with the help of the three-year-old Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute, and more specifically, by becoming a participant in the Business Innovation Competition.
The competition affords anyone connected to Temple the opportunity to showcase their ideas with an ultimate prize of $10,000 awarded to the winner. Since its inception three years ago, the competition has drawn participants from across disciplines. And it’s this type of diversity that IEI Executive Director Rudy Treichel likes to see.
“Business ideas are not limited to the business school. The experiences of the other schools is fertile ground for business ideas,” he said. “It’s really open to anyone. If you can spell entrepreneur, then you come through this institute.”
While the competition welcomes diversity, the same rules apply to everyone. The competition is open to students, faculty, staff and alumni, and outside partners may participate as long as one member of the team has ties to the university.
The contest has three stages. The first is the idea competition, in which participants submit two-page summaries of their ideas for judgment. While the deadline for that segment has passed, interested parties may still enter the feasibility plan stage in which participants develop a 25-page document that explains the viability of their product or service. The deadline for this stage is Feb. 11. Finally, the third stage consists of a business plan that participants present to judges with $10,000 on the line as the first-place prize. The deadline is April 22.
All of these steps culminate in the Venture Fair, where participants have five minutes to pitch their ideas to possible investors. Although anyone interested may enter at any stage, the Venture Fair is only open to those who have participated in the business plan stage.
The competition has prompted interest from a varied group of people, with participants as diverse as a business major who emigrated from the Ukraine to members of Temple’s own staff.
“I’ve always had a few ideas about products,” said 47-year-old Paul Amrhein, Temple’s director of Accounting Information Systems.
Amrhein, a first-place winner in the idea stage, feels as though he has discovered a way to save time when it comes to the sometimes monotonous task of data entry. Always trying to “do things quicker,” Amrhein wrote a program he calls Data Entry Server, which takes information from one system and puts it into another, effectively cutting out the middleman.
“It eliminates the handwork,” he said. “You could take that person and dedicate their time to something else.”
While he has had a positive, if not limited, response to his idea-he has supplied 12 people with the program-Amrhein insists his ultimate objective is to sharpen his writing abilities.
“Becoming a good writer has been a long term pursuit. It’s really a writing contest at this point,” he said, holding up the big black binder that holds nearly 25 pages of material for the upcoming feasibility stage. “I have a preliminary goal: write this really well. At this point I’m taking the shorter view; the longer term interest is if you write it well, it will work out.”
Amrhein isn’t the only participant to take an artistic approach to the contest.
Thirty-year-old Qiang Huang, a Film and Media Arts major who was born and raised in central China, is working on a way to meld technology and artistry more effectively.
The IT Prototype Idea stage runner-up said his ultimate goal is to “[create] new [artistic] pieces that we have never seen before.” He used a display he recently saw at the University of New York as an example. Through the use of a mounted sonar camera, the display could judge the distance of a viewer and subsequently shift small pieces of bamboo attached to metal wires to take the form of the viewer, effectively creating a silhouette of that person.
Huang said he is searching for ways to make technology more adaptable to humans, instead of forcing people to adapt to technology. His objective is to “use existing hardware and software to create a truly interactive physical environment that is aware of the user and the audience.”
“In China, technology is something you use and eventually abandon,” he said. “You use it; the goal is not to adapt yourself to it.”
Not every idea was technology driven, however. Twenty-six-year-old Amy Giddings, working on completing her Ph.D in Sport Psychology at Temple, decided to parlay her 12 years of athletic competition-which included a full athletic scholarship to Temple for her Master’s and a spot on the University rowing team-into a business plan.
What she came up with was PA Rowing Camps and her idea earned her second place in the Business Plan Idea stage.
“Last year I set up a pilot program to see if there was a need for community rowing programs and youth rowing programs in the city,” she said.
The results were surprising: over 100 people participated, despite minimal advertising.
“[The interest] was almost more than we could handle,” she said. It was also enough to convince her that this could be a viable organization. What also separates her from many of the participants is that the fact that PA Rowing Camps is non-profit.
For more information or to register for the competition go to www.sbm.temple.edu/iei.