Monday, March 25

Competition rewards entrepreneurs


First place split between support, storage system, teenage boy magazine

From mold removal to the wants of teenage boys, this
year’s Knapp Venture Competition covered a broad base of
human interests.

The annual competition offers UCLA Anderson School of Management
students a chance to present their business plan in front of a
group of entrepreneurial judges. The groups compete for a total of
$20,000.

The competition initially consisted of 48 teams but was narrowed
down to six for last night’s finals. Each team received 15
minutes to explain their proposal, after which the judges grilled
them on potential weaknesses of their plan.

This year’s first place prize was split between
MessageRite, an e-mail and instant messaging support and storage
system, and Krank, a hipster magazine directed at 12- to
17-year-old boys.

Three of the four honorable mentions at the competition were
marketing a newly developed technology. They included RA Imaging, a
biotechnology firm developing a technology that allows for easy
detection of melanoma, Micropurity, which markets a new technology
for mold removal, and Deeptek, which is developing a quality laser
printer with low upkeep costs.

The additional honorable mention was Jet Fleet International, a
company which links up pilots to allow them to buy in bulk for
lower prices.

For Anni Layne Rodgers of Krank, winning first place in the
competition was as much about personal gratification as the prize
money.

Rodgers came to Anderson with the intention of starting her own
publication, although she said she had no idea it would begin so
soon. She is currently a 2004 MBA candidate.

“Having the business school validate my dream is very
gratifying,” Rodgers said.

She said she is planning to use the money to develop a prototype
of an issue to lure advertisers.

Rodgers has worked with other publications for years, and during
this period she noticed a lack of publications directed at teenage
boys. After conducting research, she said she found a huge demand
for such a product.

Rodgers and her co-presenter Maggie Brenneke said they expect
Krank will fill this void. The magazine will cover topics ranging
from girls to skateboarding to cars.

Even though Elliott Parker of Micropurity, also a 2004 MBA
candidate, did not place first in the competition, he said he had
fun and learned in the process — even though he had to wear a
suit, which according to Parker true entrepreneurs do not wear.

“Just going through the process helps you think things out
more clearly, it helps make sure you have your story
straight,” Parker said.

His business partner, Keith Johnson, also a 2004 MBA candidate,
agreed the response he received from the judges was helpful. He
also suggested that it would be helpful for future competitions to
give the presenters even more feedback by having the audience fill
out questionnaires about each presenter’s business plan.

“To say that you’re a runner-up in the Knapp
Competition is fine, but a large portion of the reason you’re
here is for feedback,” Johnson said.

Parker said he got the idea for Micropurity after cleaning mold
out of his kitchen. He said he thought it was going to be a timely,
costly process, but then received a “care package” from
his friends who work for a chemical company. After seeing how well
the care package worked to remove his mold, Parker decided to
market it.

In addition to feedback and prize money, presenters receive
other benefits, most notably exposure, and in some cases, start-up
funding.

Of the 300 or so attendees at the competition, a number were
financial investors. In some cases these investors find a company
so appealing they will approach the students afterwards with an
investment offer.

Cleon “Bud” Knapp, a UCLA alumnus, and his wife
Betsy finance the competition. The Price Center and
Anderson’s Entrepreneur Association are organizers of the
competition.

Betsy said the couple feel it is important to finance the event
because of the end result.

“We have a great personal interest in business formation.
We have a vested interest in helping businesses, as well as the
community,” she said.

“Being able to promote their business plans helps the
entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. And new businesses help
the community,” she added.

Since only one member from each company needs to be an Anderson
student, several of the companies included a wide range of
individuals, from undergraduate biology students to seasoned
professionals.

Additionally, the businesses were in a wide range of stages.
Some already have customers while others have little more than an
idea. Of the winners, Krank does not have a prototype, while one of
the judges is a customer of MessageRite.

The judges picked the winners based on the quality and
comprehensiveness of the business plan, the quality of the oral
presentation and the viability of the business idea.

The Knapps, who are on the seven-member judge panel, said they
were pleased with the diverse selection of business plans they
received this year.

“The university as a whole is more represented this year,
which is what it’s all about,” Bud said.

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