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Students compete for business startup capital

<p>Auburn Univeristy hosts two business competitions that kick-off in fall of 2021.&nbsp;</p>

Auburn Univeristy hosts two business competitions that kick-off in fall of 2021. 

This fall, Auburn University is once again providing students a space to pitch their best business ideas at the Halloween Pitch Competition and the Tiger Cage Business Idea Competition. 

Each competition is meant to provide Auburn and Auburn University at Montgomery students with an opportunity to win thousands of dollars and professional support for their business venture pitch. 

A wide variety of workshops will be available to competitors during the events to prepare them for each round. These workshops will be conducted by mentors from the Auburn family of business professionals, other Auburn faculty and staff, entrepreneurs-in-residence and several guest speakers. 

Student workspace will be available in the Horton-Hardgrave Hall Innovation Lab and the New Venture Accelerator, located in Suite 101 of the Research and Innovation Center.

“Part of what we do over [at the New Venture Accelerator] is to run the Halloween Pitch competition and the Tiger Cage competition,” said Lucian Bifano, member of the entrepreneurship team in the College of Business and manager of the New Venture Accelerator. “We also do a lot of coaching and mentoring to help students and faculty members with their startups. We have myself and three part-time entrepreneurs and residents that help with the coaching and mentoring duties.”

Bifano, an Auburn graduate, has taught a class on how to write and pitch business plans each year since beginning his time at Auburn in 2017. He will serve as a mentor for the competitions. 

Halloween Pitch Competition

The third year of the Halloween Pitch Competition will officially begin on Oct. 21, when teams and individuals must submit a one-page summary of their idea — as well as a three-minute video — to the University’s online competition space.

Twenty business ideas will be selected from a panel of judges to advance to the pitch round on Oct. 29. Advancing teams and individuals will receive an invitation with their assigned pitch time prior to Oct. 29. 

Each time slot will provide three minutes for the team or individual to present their business idea to the panel. After reviewing all 20, the judges will select the final four pitches.

The first-place prize is an award of $2,000 in startup capital; the second-place prize is $1,000; the third and fourth-place teams or individuals will be awarded $500 each.

“The judges are all people who have been successful entrepreneurs or investors, and a large number of them are Auburn grads,” Bifano said. “But we have other friends of Auburn that myself and some of the entrepreneurs and residents have known throughout our careers, and [they] will also be judges in the competition. So, it’s a mix. It’s a pretty diverse group of men and women and a lot of different backgrounds.”

Tiger Cage

As for Tiger Cage, which began in 2016, submissions must be made by Nov. 19 before midnight online. Submissions must include a 250-word summary of a business idea, which will be used to introduce the judges to the business concept. 

Additionally, participants must fill out a one-page Business Model Canvas that describes their business model.

Each participant must also submit three to five PowerPoint slides describing the problem their business addresses, their proposed solution and the market opportunity for their pitch. Finally, participants need to attach a video describing the business idea, model and problem that will be solved, up to three minutes in length. 

Once applications close, an independent panel of judges will select the top 20 teams from the submissions to advance to the quarter-final round. 

The selected participants will deliver a business pitch to the panel of judges — each with experience in both business formation and funding — on Friday, Jan. 28. 

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The presentation atmosphere will be designed to resemble a typical pitch to an angel investor or venture capital firm. 

Teams will prepare a PowerPoint to be utilized during their pitch and will have up to 10 minutes to speak — five minutes of time for presentation and five minutes for questions from the judges. 

After the quarter-final round is complete, judges will select eight competitors for the final round.

After another round of presentations on Friday, Feb. 25, the competitors will be cut in half so that only four remaining groups or individuals progress onto the final round.

The finals will be on March 25 and will be held as a public event where the top four participants will compete for a share of the startup prize pool.

The startup capital, sponsored by the Harbert College of Business, rests at $50,000. 

First place will receive $25,000 and the remaining three competitors will split the remaining half. 

An additional $4,000 innovation award is up for grabs, sponsored by the Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management. 

“Practice, practice, practice,” Bifano said. “Take advantage of the coaching and mentoring that we offer in the workshops for students … Take advantage of the classes that we teach. Consider the entrepreneurship minor, and really ... take advantage of all the resources that Auburn provides to help start a business.”

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