The 28th annual running of UT-Austin’s Global Moot Corp was completed this past weekend and, for the first time for this event, I participated as a judge. In case you didn’t catch the post-event coverage of the event, there were a couple of outcomes worth note.
First, already informally regarded as the “super bowl” of investment competition, the event will be henceforth renamed the Venture Labs Investment Competition, reflecting the true nature of what it has become: a forum where MBAs from around the world launch their ventures by raising capital.
Second, the domains of venture opportunities have noticeably shifted away from IT and cleantech, back to biotech and life sciences. This was fully reinforced by the numbers, with more than half of the 40 deals being biotech/life sciences related, with the remainder being roughly equal parts cleantech or IT (some web, some hardware/software).
[A quick sidenote: I've been covering this intersection of life sciences, bioengineering, materials science, augmented & virtual reality, and alternative UI design on my professional blog for the past year. For example, check out posts on bio-printing and haptic tech. - SG]
The winners reflected the same trend, with three out of the top four placing companies being from life sciences. The fourth was a cleantech play – focused on a new solar panel chemistry and process – that won the division that I judged with four colleagues. For the record, here are the deals:
- BiologicsMD – a new prescription osteoporosis solution
- PCCA Technologies – a glucose-sensing contact lens for diabetes patients self-monitoring
- Silicon Solar Solutions – patented processes for reducing the cost of photovoltaics
- GlucaGo – products for reducing the risk and severity of hypoglycemic attack
Being involved in an activity like the Venture Labs Investment Competition never gets old for me. Not only does it expose you to a wonderful, new diversity of people and ideas, but it is an excellent reminder of the importance of both hard and soft skills in promoting a new venture.
To win, you have to have the hard skills to convince judges that you have a powerful, compelling opportunity, mustering as much qualitative and quantitative evidence that you can, with sufficient financial back-up, to demonstrate that there are real customers who want it and would pay to have it.
But, to win, you also have to exercise soft skills that range from cheerfully greeting each person that walks by your reception table (the night preceding Day 1′s first round judging), to pacing your pitch while responding to questions on the fly, to dressing and looking professional while avoiding being too stiff or too casual, to demonstrating a sufficient intensity and confidence yet simultaneously maintaining a sense of humor and balance about the proceedings.
A tip of my hat to all of the participants – as a whole, they were a strong field. Interestingly, the overall 1st and 3rd place finishers (BiologicsMD and Silicon Solar, respectively) were both deal teams from the University of Arkansas. Kudos to the entrepreneurship and MBA programs in Fayetteville, but all I can say, as a Longhorn fan, is thank God the old SouthWest Conference is kaput, or we’d have to endure a double helping of Razorback bragging rights.
Hats off as well to Rob Adams and the Moot Corp, UT-Austin business school staff and volunteers. Nice job folks. Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the “hometown” team of Solavicta, from the University of Texas-Austin, which was an individual challenge award winner (of the Angelsoft Challenge). Congratulations, David and Franklin!