Teams of both graduate and undergraduate students are asked to submit their best business plan, outlining how they would move Nevada business into the future. The payoff? A $20,000 prize for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place.
First and second place winners also move on to compete in a regional competition with students from Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“We see an interesting range of plans,” said Dave Archer, CEO of NCET. “They range from a million-dollar fuel facility to a pizza parlor. All of them have been phenomenal. … The written business plans, they are as good as anything that I have seen in the corporate world.”
With 35 years in the business development industry, Archer spent 17 years at Viacom, initially at Viacom Cable, where he introduced numerous new products and services including Pay-Per-View, home-shopping and commercial telecommunication services. However, he will not be judging the students’ final business plans. On Wednesday, the 12 teams will each give a 20-minute pitch to a panel of Nevada’s business leaders, followed by a 20-minute question-and-answer session.
The Wednesday oral presentations are open to the public. The first teams will take the floor at 10 a.m. and groups will present every hour until the last team has been judged. The presentations will be on the second floor at the Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa.
This year's student finalists submitted business plans that outlined topics ranging from biometric hand recognition to advanced hand-held protection devices to clean biofuels.
Cameron Howard, Jeff Olson and Jonathan Crane developed a plan to convert waste paper into cellulosic ethanol, naming their company Nevada Paper Fuels. The University of Nevada, Reno students’ plan jumps out ahead of newly increased clean fuel standards from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. The new standards call for a sharp increase in the production of cellulosic ethanol to 1 billion gallons per year by 2013. The requirements for the clean fuel continue to increase almost exponentially through 2023.
According to the business plan, Nevada Paper Fuels would be producing 12.6 million gallons of the biofuel by 2015, claiming their percentage of the 3 billion gallon per year required market share.
“It has given me a broader understanding of how to run a company,” said Olson, a materials science and engineering undergraduate student.
The chemical catalyst that will break down paper into the cellulosic ethanol has a provisional patent through UNR and was researched and developed at the university.
Other groups, such as UNR’s Biometric Recognition, Inc, led by team captain Holly Soltani, have also developed prototypes for their businesses. Biometric Recognition's hand-based identification technology is aimed at developing better authentication and security practices among businesses.
One group from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas developed Tiki Ice, an all-natural Italian ice business that focuses on the treat’s health benefits. The product boasts one-third fewer calories than competitors’ products and a business plan that produces a 50 percent return on sales year over year.
According to Archer, who has more than 35 years of experience in business development, the competition is designed to not only flex entrepreneurial muscles, but also help students compete in an increasingly competitive business climate.
“This was never designed to be a business-creation exercise. It is an academic exercise,” Archer said. “The last thing we want to do is have a student feel pressured to stop their education and start a business. But it turns them into better employees.”
According to Archer, one or two businesses grow out of the competition every year. For the 2010 competition, about 91 groups submitted intents to participate. Of those that expressed interest in participating, 51 actually submitted business plans. However, fewer than 20 made it to the final competition.
In conjunction with the Governor’s Cup Award, teams are also encouraged to participate in the Lt. Governor’s Award. This $5,000 prize will be given to the team whose business plan best uses clean, renewable and efficient energy technology. This award is sponsored by NV Energy.
On April 23, finalists will gather at a dinner where the winners of both awards will be announced. Tickets for that dinner are $100 per seat and can be purchased by visiting http://events.ncet.org/gov_cup.