The 10th annual MBA Venture Challenge, hosted by the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship (CNVE), highlights the business aptitudes Texas A&M University’s Full-Time MBA program strives to teach—strategic thinking, diligent research, effective communication skills and professional networking.

Each year since 2003, teams of first-year MBA students have participated in the Venture Challenge. The teams are assigned an early-stage venture (often originating from Texas A&M research labs), and are asked to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the enterprise.

CNVE director Richard Lester (top right) and the first place team at this year's MBA Venture Challenge
CNVE director Richard Lester (top right) and the first place team at this year’s MBA Venture Challenge (view more photos)

Richard Lester, executive director of Mays’ CNVE, calls the MBA Venture Challenge “a significant immersion for our students in experiential education. They investigate actual early-stage companies that are balancing the demands of new marketplaces in addition to financing and technological challenges.”

In order to do well in the competition, the MBA teams must objectively and meticulously evaluate each venture based on its viability in the competitive business arena. According to the CNVE website, “the Venture Challenge is a great way to showcase our students and diverse research portfolio to the business and investment community.”

Each team presents a two-minute elevator pitch based on its analysis of the venture to a panel of judges from the business and academic community. After the initial elevator pitches, the top six teams are chosen to present 15-minute “venture pitches” to a room full of judges, business representatives and peers. This year, the finalists’ ventures ranged from a respiratory drug to treat cystic fibrosis to an online travel-booking enterprise.

“The event brings a wealth of experience and expertise to Mays Business School, such as venture capitalists, bankers, technologists and many others,” says Lester. These qualified judges pepper the students with questions, revealing the MBA teams’ expertise (or lack thereof) in their researched venture.

Lester says the Venture Challenge is an integral part of full-time MBA students’ experience at Mays, claiming the competition provides a “rich educational experience for the students and a significant networking opportunity for our college and our attendees.”

This year’s winners were:

  • First Place ($3,000): Jenna Beyer, Emil Boehm, Matt Buzby, Joel Cunninghman, D.J. McCarty and Joseph Pluhar; Incellerate
  • Second Place ($2,000): Luke Baker, Mark Herman, Craig Hooker, James Kelly, Jr. and Scott Monk; The Patria Group Corp.
  • Third Place ($1,000): Jemison Bartlett, Justin Gibbs, Sarah Hassan, Amey Karnik and Nicholas Vernon; Savara Inc.