The first-place team in the inaugural Aggie Pitch competition on April 20 was Bezoar Labs – a team familiar to McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship because it received honorable mention in the 2017 Raymond Ideas Challenge.
Of the 10 finalists in the competition in which students from Texas A&M System schools and branch campuses pitch their business concepts, eight had been involved in McFerrin programs (3 Day Startup, Ideas Challenge, and Startup Aggieland).
Bezoar Lab team members said their invention “tackles every element of our planet’s complex web improving its health by creating a safer, more nutritious protein sources for all.” Team members were Ryan Springer, manufacturing and mechanical engineering technologies; and Grace Tsai, nautical archaeology.
McFerrin Center Director Blake Petty said the first competition was encouraging. “Our inaugural Aggie Pitch event showcased the dedication and entrepreneurial spirit behind our top student entrepreneurs,” he said. “McFerrin Center looks forward to enabling the next wave of students within our Aggie Entrepreneurial Ecosystem to be even stronger competitors in 2019 and beyond.”
Weeks of preparation
In the weeks leading up to the final event, the participants got a chance to showcase their ideas. In addition to a cash prize pool of $50,000, the winners were considered for nomination to additional business plan/pitch competitions across the nation.
Each team got time with Chris Westfall, a national elevator pitch champion who frequently coaches students in the McFerrin Center. He said he was encouraged by the quality of the projects in the competition. “All of these young people are working on creating products, but I tell them, ‘You owe it to yourself to understand how to engineer your story as well as do the work to create the product,’” he said. “I tell every presenter, ‘Whether or not you win today, you have gained so much from this experience. You’ve got a new vocabulary now. Keep practicing it and honing it. It will serve you well.’”
He added, waving his hand toward the students around the room: “It is exciting to be here and see the transformation of themselves and in some cases, possibly the world.”
Finalists invited to the April 20 event were evaluated and scored by a panel of prestigious entrepreneur/investor judges who volunteer with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. The judging panel included:
- Blake Teipel: Co-founder and president of Essentium Materials LLC, co-founder of TriFusion Devices, and winner of the 2015 Rice Business Plan competition
- Graham Weston: Entrepreneur at Trout Capital, Ltd., co-founder and past chairman and CEO of Rackspace Hosting, and an Aggie 100 Honoree in 2005, 2006, 2009 & 2011.
- Molly Cain: Director of the Office of Venture & Innovation at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a contributing leadership & lifestyle writer for Forbes Magazine, and founder of Glass Heel.
- David Wesson: Founder, President and CEO of GEODynamics and Aggie 100 Company in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2014, & 2015, executive VP- Downhole Technologies for Oil States International, and serves on the Advisory Council for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.
- Jennifer McFerrin-Bohner: A businesswoman, investor, executive director of the McFerrin Foundation and curator of the McFerrin Collection. She sits on numerous boards and committees in an effort to impact the leaders of tomorrow, and to help others achieve their goals.