Russ: This is The BusinessMakers Show, brought to you by Comcast Business, PKF Texas, and Savage Brands. And this is that show that champions entrepreneurship at thebusinessmakers.com. Coming to you from the campus of Rice University, I’m in front of a live audience of over 400 entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, lawyers, CPAs, and we’re here for the 2016 Rice Business Plan Competition. So, let’s hear it for that, too. And I’m very pleased to have as my guest, and please join me in welcoming the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance, the man that drives the ship, the man that makes this better every year, Mr. Brad Burke.
Brad: Thanks, Russ. Thanks.
Russ: Give us a historical overview of the Rice Business Plan Competition.
Brad: Well, here’s the 30 second overview for you. We started this competition in 2001. That year we had 9 teams; 9 teams compete for 10 thousand dollars. We thought we were jumping it up big the next year, we had 15 teams compete for 30 thousand dollars, and fast forward to today. So, we’ve got, as you know, 42 universities here today, the best startups in the world, competing for more than a million dollars, in front of 275 judges.
Russ: Very impressive, very impressive. Ok, so we’re right here at the very beginning, the first event, the elevator pitch contest, my favorite. I think it’s pressure packed, for sure. But, describe an elevator pitch. What do you look for? What’s it all about?
Brad: Well, here’s the thing: so, an elevator pitch is, you get in the first floor in an elevator, and right before the doors close, Warren Buffett walks in. You’ve got until the 34th floor in order to convince Warren that your idea warrants a second meeting as a potential investment. So, you’ve got, in this case, maybe a little bit of a slow elevator. You’ve got 60 seconds tonight to be able to pitch your business idea enough to intrigue an investor to want to meet with you for a second meeting, and that’s the purpose of the elevator pitch.
Russ: Wow. What if you got in there, and the elevator opened, and it was Donald Trump?
Brad: You have until the 65th floor.
Russ: Ok, so we actually have a time clock here, and it’s watched, and, I mean, if somebody goes over, does the microphone cut off? Do they get penalized?
Brad: They’re done. The floor drops out; we’ll never see you again.
Russ: Ok, so, if you added them all up, you’ve seen quite a few elevator pitches, as many in here have. Is there any memorable one that sort of comes back and pops to the top of your head?
Brad: Well, there’s one line from one about 4 or 5 years ago that some of you will remember. So, we had a team that had a vaccine that treats cattle for a particular problem associated with a fly, and they had the fly vaccine. So, they went to talk about this vaccine for cattle, and the last closing line, the tagline of the elevator pitch was, “We’re creating cash cows.” And some of you will remember that, and I still do 5 years later.
Russ: Ok. So, uh, before we wrap it up here right now, we’ve got our teams sitting down here, what advice, what team advice would you give them here at the last second before we kick this thing off?
Brad: Well, a couple things. Two things I’ll give you advice: one, for tonight, have fun and have fun at the competition. So, I hope you learn a lot, I hope you meet a lot of people. The second is, to meet a lot of people. The judges here are here to help, they’re here to give you advice, they’re here to give you connections. So, this is advice to every student here, feel free, every chance you can during rounds, between rounds, at lunch, at dinner, go up to judges, ask them, “Hey, how can you help me?” or, “What can you do? Who do you know that knows about my business that might help me provide advice or provide investment?” Take advantage of that. There’s 275 or more people here that are here to help you.
Russ: Ok, that’s really good advice. Brad, I really appreciate it. That wraps up my interview with Brad Burke, the Managing Director of the Rice Alliance, and this is The BusinessMakers Show.
Brad: All right, thanks Russ.
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