To help business students understand the process, a plethora of business plan competitions are available in the community. Student entrepreneurs develop plans and present to panels of community judges. A number of these business plans ultimately develop into successful businesses.
Many people aren’t aware of the extensive preparation students go through to participate in a business plan competition. First, they have to generate ideas. Ideas come from a variety of sources as diverse as previous work experience, building on existing products and services, or from faculty research or mentors.
Each business plan requires an extensive concept explanation, marketing plan and financial plan. Students must have a good grasp of accounting principles and financial statements, as well as a solid foundation of marketing principles and strategies to write a successful plan. For this reason, interdisciplinary teams are common. Engineering students can handle the technology while business students handle the finances.
Students get the overall business strategy training in their University of Nevada, Reno capstone courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. These courses tie together everything they have learned in accounting, marketing and management into effective business strategies.
After students have the training and courses they need, there are many campus mentors to help shepherd them along. Faculty advisers, such as the Nevada Small Business Development Center’s Rod Jorgensen, view business plans daily from small business owners and offer real world critiques that help students assemble effective businesses and, hopefully, winning teams.
Nevada’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology held the ninth annual Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition and presented awards last month. An interesting trend emerged among many of the contestants who worked with university faculty to commercialize research and spin off companies. EscaZyme Biochemicals LLC, the first-place winner in the graduate track, is a good example of this.
EscaZyme manufactures component chemicals using the enzymes of bark beetles that were discovered through the university’s extensive research efforts.
Even more important than the prize money, vital partnerships are formed between university researchers, the Technology Transfer Office and student entrepreneurs. The TTO seeks to protect and commercialize the intellectual property produced through research activities at the University of Nevada, Reno and Desert Research Institute, a process referred to as technology transfer.
Successful technology transfer often results in a business license or a startup company.
In addition to traditional technology transfer, the TTO works with faculty to facilitate their research activities and collaborations with other institutions and commercial partners. The TTO also serves as an interface between the university, DRI and the business community, including economic development efforts.
It’s great to see new business startups thrive. But it is a particular source of pride to any university to see research move from an initial concept all the way to commercialization through its student leaders and community contests, ultimately creating sustainable companies with high-paying jobs in Nevada.
Jim McClenahan is director of corporate relations and outreach in the College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno.