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Entrepreneurs Challenge Kicks Off at NYU Stern

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More than 450 students and alumni gathered, standing-room-only, in Schimmel auditorium on September 15 to hear about this year’s Entrepreneurs Challenge, comprising the 11th Annual New Venture Competition and the 6th Annual Social Venture Competition, and sponsored by NYU Stern’s Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

The NYU Stern Entrepreneurs Challenge is the premier platform for identifying, nurturing and showcasing entrepreneurial talent at NYU. Lasting eight months, it provides aspiring entrepreneurs with frameworks, mentoring and financial support to stimulate new venture creation. Two NYU Stern alumni, Ira Leon Rennert (MBA ’56) and Stewart Satter (MBA ’82), both members of Stern’s Board of Overseers, award cash prizes to the competition’s winners. Winners of the Social Venture Competition receive the Stewart Satter Family Prize of $100,000. Similarly, winners of the Business Plan Competition collectively receive the Ira Rennert Entrepreneurial Prize of $75,000.


What it Takes to Win
Professor Jeffrey Carr, executive director of the Berkley Center, described the necessary framework for successful ventures:

  • Establish that a market exists
  • Address a problem in that market
  • Know your competition
  • Determine why you are the right person/team for this endeavor, and why your venture is better than what is already out there

The Recipe for Social Venture Success
Professor Jill Kickul, director of the Stewart Satter Program in Social Entrepreneurship, highlighted three key ingredients for social ventures:

  • Innovation addressing a societal problem
  • Financial sustainability or profitability
  • Social impact measurability
Advice from a V.C.
“Today is the best time to start a company,” remarked Lawrence Lenihan, CEO of FirstMark Capital. As a venture capitalist, Lenihan explained what he’s looking for in new ventures:
  • An excellent team
  • A big market with big “pain”
  • An innovative approach and/or a creative business model
  • A business model that talks numbers
  • Traction in the marketplace
Tips from Previous Winners

“When boot strapping a start up, ask questions and get feedback from industry experts before you spend money. You will often find you don’t need to spend money where you think do.”
-Belinda Di Giambattista (MBA '05)
  Butter Beans, Inc.


“Think big and then triple it! And get a mentor.”
-Tim McCollum
  Madécasse

“Be passionate; understand your customers; choose your team wisely; and develop a prototype that judges can see and experience.”
-Vikram Bhaskaran (MBA '09) & Paul Sciarra
  Tote

“If you’re in it to win it, then be certain that this is something that you want to do next year and the year after.”
-Ben Cokelet (MA '10)
  PODER

In addition to these tips, more information about NYU Stern’s Annual Entrepreneurs Challenge and the 2009 Competition Winners is available on the Berkley Center website.

About the Berkley Center
The NYU Stern Berkley Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation is dedicated to conducting and supporting entrepreneurship research and education.