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Posted Nov. 11, 2009

Student Entrepreneurs Compete in UVA Business Competition

George Geis
Professor George Geis

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Contact: Rob Seal

Aspiring student entrepreneurs will compete Thursday afternoon to represent the Law School in a university-wide business proposal contest.

Beginning at 4 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion, a panel of judges from the business world will determine which of five student proposals will move on to compete in the finals of the first-ever UVA Entrepreneurship Cup, a competition organized by the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Darden School of Business with cash prizes of $20,000.

The Law School stage of the competition features business proposals both from the legal world and beyond, said Professor George Geis, director of the Law & Business Program, which is sponsoring the school contest with the Virginia Law & Business Review.

“We are very impressed with the entries,” Geis said. “When we first started this, we had no idea if there would be much interest at the Law School or not. But we said ‘Let’s give it a go,’ and made the opportunity available.”

The Law School winner will compete Nov. 20 at the McIntire School of Commerce in the finals against winners from five similar competitions at other UVA schools. The UVA Entrepreneurship Cup is an expansion of an existing contest at Darden.

The Law School proposals “range from a phone application that allows its users to order food to eat at a restaurant ahead of time to a nonprofit Mandarin learning center for young children,” said contestant Sarah Wu ’11.

Other entries include a proposal to use derivatives markets to lock in current gas prices, an idea for an agricultural venture involving produce futures and outdoor entertainment, and a plan for a new form of e-mail that can be programmed to self-destruct, Geis said.

The Law School contestants, who are either competing as individuals or in pairs, will make presentations Thursday based on two- to three-page descriptions of a business or nonprofit idea, and field questions from the judges.

“We’ve put together a really impressive panel of judges to evaluate these final entries,” Geis said.

Thursday’s judges are Richard B. Morrow ’82, a partner at Boulder Advisors; Charles R. Cory ‘82, managing director at Morgan Stanley; and Brian Kannry of Court Square Ventures.

Richard Crawford, managing director of the Virginia Active Angel Network and chairman of the board of its management company, Virginia Investment Capital Group Inc., helped organize the event.

Geis said he hopes the contest will help expose students to business and business law related topics, facilitate some interdepartmental mingling when the contest reaches the final stage, and present an interesting networking opportunity for participating students.

The idea of the contest is to evaluate business proposals at a very early stage, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that one or more could evolve into functioning businesses, Geis said.

“It’s possible. I think there are some really good ideas here,” he said.

The Law School contestants are Brent Andrus ’10 and Aaron Pacini ‘10, Christopher Dass ’11 and Leigh Phillips ‘11, Brian Coppola ’10 and Clinton Dockery ‘10, Christopher Siebens ’11 and Tim Nguyen ‘10, and Sarah Wu ‘11.