With rich cash awards and a forum for budding entrepreneurs to pitch their business and investors to speak about what they want out of a start-up opportunity, the Entrepreneur Challenge Business Plan Competition, hosted by the Eugenio Pino and Family Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University, consistently creates excitement and opportunity.
On May 13, 2008, twenty of South Florida’s leading entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts evaluated the business plans of ten finalist teams, with a total of $25,000 awarded to the winners and runners-up in the investment track and a new social track. Concepts embraced non-profits and for-profits in industries such as Internet, green technology, social networking, education, and entertainment.
Winning companies seek to empower others.
Web site Go Global Education, provider of standards-based online global education programs to U.S. public, private, and charter schools, won the investment track, which the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation sponsored.
“The inspiration came from my passionate belief in the importance of having a global perspective,” said team leader Archie Jeter (MIB ’06). “I’m from a small city in the Midwest but had the opportunity to live in Spain, Australia, and Peru. Broadening your horizons, opening up your vision, and increasing your knowledge of the world empowers you.”
My Daily Cause, a web site that aggregates charities and other non-profit organizations in a way that allows individuals to donate in small increments via a click-through business model, captured the social track prize. Justin Vizaro, a twenty-year-old International Business Honors student, led the team.
“A tremendous number of people want to be involved with non-profit organizations or charities, but lack the extra time or money,” he said. “Our idea is to get college or high school students to put some of their daily computer time to use, empowering them to make a difference in the non-profit world, and getting them involved with organizations that make a difference.”
First-time judge Lorenzo Lebrija (MBA ’07, BA ’00), program director, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the social track, was impressed with the event and with what he heard from the competitors.
“The presentations were innovative in the issues they were tackling and their approaches to those issues were good,” he said “The idea behind My Daily Cause was so simple that we all thought ‘Wow, why didn’t I think of that. This really seems to work!’”
The Miami Herald and HSBC Private Bank provided additional support for the event. The traditional investment track of the competition is open to all Florida International University students or alumni, with the social track open to all South Florida residents.