With a laser focus on providing the very best educational experience possible for our students, several significant changes and enhancements were made to the McCloskey Business Plan Competition. As has been the case since the inaugural McCloskey Competition in 2001, Notre Dame students, alumni and faculty were encouraged to enter the McCloskey Competition by submitting their new venture proposals for Round 1. Those faculty and alumni teams selected to advance to Round 2 were allowed to continue in the Competition as long as at least one current Notre Dame student was invited into the process to lead the team effort for the purposes of the Competition. Students were integrally involved in the business planning process for all McCloskey teams, including the development of the business model, writing the business plan and presenting at subsequent rounds of the Competition. Alumni and faculty founders essentially become advisers to the teams as the students guided the business planning efforts.
146 teams entered the McCloskey Business Plan Competition this year: of these 146 teams, 113 were advanced to the business plan round. 40 round 2 teams were either alumni or faculty teams. Each of these 40 teams were faced with the challenge of connecting with students to help lead the business planning efforts. To expedite this process, the Gigot Center team developed an online platform to facilitate these connections. More than 100 current students signed up on the Student Entrepreneurs Directory, indicating that they were interested and willing to connect with alumni teams. Alumni and faculty founders were able to view the student profiles on the platform (we provided a brief summary of the qualifications and a resume for each student). Students were able to view summaries of each of the alumni teams on the platform as well via the Alumni Showcase. The connections platform was a rousing success!
A significant new prize for undergraduates, the $10,000 Vennli Award for Best Undergraduate Venture, was added to incentivize our undergraduate student entrepreneurs. Our sincere thanks to Gary Gigot and the Vennli team for their 5-year commitment to sponsor this important prize.
We were very pleased to pilot this year a new social impact "scorecard" which was used as an objective means of measuring social and/or environmental impact. This scorecard was used by our final round judges to determine the winner of the Klau Family Award for Greatest Social Impact.
Also new this year was the decision to bring more teams into the semifinal round, to allow more students an opportunity to pitch LIVE before our panel of judges in April. 20 teams advanced into the semifinal round, allowing more than twice as many students a chance to pitch.
Significant changes were made to accommodate these 20 pitches as well: each of the 20 semifinal teams gave a quick 5-minute pitch, and had an opportunity to interact directly with our judges for a much more informal time of Q&A. This change was powerful - there was a tremendous amount of energy in the room and feedback has been extremely positive.
Only current students presented in the semifinal round. 12 of the 20 semifinalist were student ventures - very impressive - and the 8 alumni teams were represented by the students on their teams. These students did an outstanding job representing these ventures. Those in the room were very impressed by our students.
These students were not "token" additions to the teams; rather, our discussions with the founders indicate that the students added significant value to the development of the business model. Feedback from the students on these alumni teams has been very, very positive, indicating that it was, indeed, a powerful and positive experience. Several alumni founders are trying hard to woo these students away from their traditional job offers (including such notable offers as Bain & Company) and instead enticing them to join their startups as they prepare to move forward into the market.
Many significant changes this year paved the way for a very successful competition and a greatly enhanced student experience!