Guest Post: Our Experience at the SXSW Business Startup Challenge
Today’s post is by Hugh Gibbons, a current student in the full-time MBA program. He participated in SXSW’s Business Startup Challenge last month with his team, RoomVa, an online booking system for Latin America that allows couples to reserve last minute hotel rooms. Below, Hugh shares some of the highlights of attending SXSW and describes his experience competing against 14 other top-notch teams from business schools around the country. The RoomVa team is currently participating in the 2014 Edward L. Kaplan, ‘71, New Venture Challenge.
Business school is about experiences and the best learning opportunities in school arrive through thoroughly engaging in many and varied experiences: whether it is discussing a unique and controversial case study in a classroom, enjoying a wild safari in the Serengeti during a school trip on spring break or participating with classmates in a national competition, the diverse set of situations we encounter over our two years prepare us better for our future life, professionally and also in many ways personally.
The SXSW Business Startup Challenge is an example of one of these and it was one of our most memorable experiences at school. First, we were honored to be selected to represent Chicago Booth at one of the most recognized and established interactive and technology conferences globally. We understood the prestige of the event and the credibility it would give our start-up idea so our excitement levels beforehand were huge. We also realized that our presentation needed to be high standard so we spent many hours practicing and preparing for the day. We also used a new style of presentation format called Prezi, which our team captain was familiar with, but the other members were not so it took a little getting used too.
The organization prior to the event was excellent both from the Booth perspective and the competition organizers. We (RoomVa team members) all arrived into Austin at different times: I was fortunate to arrive a day early – something I would highly recommend.
There was a tremendous buzz around the city with all the major tech companies represented. For example, I hung out drinking coffee with the guys from Dropbox for some of the afternoon while later in the evening, we had beers with the Funny or Die website crew. From a networking perspective, it is an excellent opportunity for students to engage in this in a more relaxed, informal and social environment. There is nothing forced about the conversations and interactions and it is very organic and natural networking, which I always view as the best form.
Chicago-Area Students Harness their Inner Zuckerberg at Campus 1871
This past weekend, a select group of University of Chicago students participated in Campus 1871, a start-up competition, with over 50 talented students from four Chicago-area universities: Northwestern University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois, and the University of Chicago.
The students used the weekend to come up with an idea, form multi-university teams, do customer research, and create a minimum viable product. They also participated in “startup 101” classes and worked with mentors in order to refine their pitch to a panel of judges representing the four universities.
In the end, nine teams, consisting of members from all four universities, presented promising businesses ranging from a caffeine diffusing alarm clock to a fitness app that uses the same system as fantasy football.
The winning team, Alpacu, which is an online moving platform, earned a year-long membership to 1871. The runner up and third place teams each received summer memberships. All teams were impressive enough for the 1871’s vice president, Mike Huffstetler to remark that “all of the teams would give the incumbent companies a run for their money.”
Special thanks to 1871’s Mike Huffstetler and Jasmine Slivka for organizing such a great event!