Finalists of last year’s Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition, a program of Trinity’s entrepreneurship department, continue to expand their organizations in new ways. Representatives from the department, The Contemporary and The Country Club Collection offer their reflections on the contest’s value.
The Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition, run through the entrepreneurship department, is open to Trinity students and alumni within one year of graduation. Each spring, students of any major are invited to pitch business ideas — for-profit and non-profit alike — for a shot at being one of five finalists who are awarded $5,000 and the opportunity to work on their business during a 10-week summer accelerator program led by the entrepreneurship department. The program includes a curriculum tailored to teaching students how to build a successful business. During the fall, the spring finalists compete for a $25,000 grand prize.
In an interview conducted via email, Danny Oh, CEO of last year’s grand-prize-winning Country Club Collection online golf apparel store, said the competition was a boon to his company.
“It has provided me an opportunity to pursue my dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and business person,” Oh said. “The plethora of knowledge and education the program has provided me, is one of numerous examples of how Trinity is such a top-tier institution.”
Oh noted that the prize helped the Country Club Collection expand in new directions.
“We are scaling and expanding our operations with more country clubs and manufacturers,” Oh said.
The Country Club Collection was one of five finalists chosen in 2016. Benjamin Collinger, a sophomore history and international studies double major, was another finalist. Collinger is the founder and editor-in-chief of “The Contemporary,” a publication that was originally envisioned as a political science journal made by and for Trinity students.
“We decided to enter the Stumberg competition after realizing that The Contemporary is something we could extend to other campuses across the country,” Collinger said. “We thought there was a really big gap in the way that students engage with public affairs across college campuses. We saw an opening to make a more unified version of a publication that can reflect the vision of students across the country.”
Collinger praised the Stumberg competition and urges more students to consider integrating their studies with entrepreneurial principles.
“I think the Stumberg competition and the entrepreneurial mindset is really great for any organization that has any type of aspiration [to] grow outside of Trinity,” Collinger said. “Whether it’s discovering new customers, figuring out what works, finding mentors — those are all things that only entrepreneurship can provide to people. People throw around ‘interdisciplinary’ a lot, but I really do think that having humanities people, business people and STEM people all together doing entrepreneurship is a really valuable creative collision. More people should consider it as a part of their Trinity experience.”
Four of last year’s five finalists participated in the summer accelerator program, putting their $5,000 to use and receiving advice from entrepreneurship experts.
“We had $5,000 to develop the business, which was very important in allowing us to continue to expand through the website, paying different people for advice, and other regular infrastructure things, including filing as a non-profit,” Collinger said. “Dr. [Luis] Martinez and the entrepreneurship department at large was able to connect us with a lot of different leaders in industry and business, whether that’s through Geekdom, Startup Grind, the San Antonio Entrepreneurship Center. All these resources [are ones that] the department pushed out to us, made sure that we were aware of, and asked us to take advantage of. That’s something a regular organization doesn’t get.”
Though “The Contemporary” wasn’t awarded the grand prize money, Collinger reports that the publication is advancing strongly.
“We’ve had the opportunity to connect with people at, so far, 11 campuses across the country,” Collinger said. “We’re adding people to our staff and we’ve just filed as a non-profit corporation in Texas, which means that we’ll be able to start receiving donations from individuals who want to support our cause and continue to make public affairs discourse better on college campuses.”
Luis Martinez, director of the entrepreneurship department, offers insight on how the other finalists are doing. He notes that Cloud Therapy’s CEO is working with IBM’s Watson and two major pharmaceutical companies specializing in child disease.
“That’s a real impact. GLO [Good Looking Out, a safety app] is in the process of putting their beta in global circulation,” Martinez said. “The Country Club Collection … is generating revenue every month; one of the things that impressed the judges is that they’re one of the companies that has been generating revenue since they started.”
Martinez that the summer accelerator program is akin to undergraduate research for students in the entrepreneurship program.
“Just like our colleagues do research in the sciences or scholarship in the humanities, in entrepreneurship, students are building their businesses.”
Martinez also pointed out that every Stumberg finalist that participated in the summer accelerator program has stayed in business. He explains the program’s benefits.
“With the exception of Cloud Therapy, which is run by an alum, the other teams spent the summer with us working on filing their paperwork, establishing their corporate bylaws, developing their operating agreements, figuring out who their customers were, figuring out what their minimum viable product would be and building their business,” Martinez said.
Because Stumberg finalists and grand prize winners serve clientele outside of Trinity University, students may not see the companies’ impact, but Martinez assures:
“Here in entrepreneurship, if you’re committed to building something for real, we’ll help you build it,” Martinez said. “[The finalists] all have real customers and real sales.”
Martinez says that participation in the Stumberg competition is a great way for students to prepare for other venture competitions run out of the University of Maryland, Rice University, Washington University in St. Louis, Texas Christian University, and other top schools. But there are several features of Trinity’s competition that set it apart from others.
“You, as a student, own your company 100 percent. Trinity doesn’t own any equity in your company when you win money from us. Students get to own all of the intellectual property that’s generated in their company; that’s something that’s unique to our competition, that other competitions don’t have. … We’re giving you $30,000 of real money. You’ve got to spend it on your business and tell us how you spend it on your business, but it’s actually $30,000 plus all of that mentoring.”
Applications for students and recent alumni interested in participating in the third annual Stumberg competition are due Feb. 10 at the following web address: tustumberg2017.startupcompete.co. Applicants for the 2017 competition will know which 10 to 14 teams will participate in this spring’s pitch competition by Feb. 10.