The USD shark tank is finally here with V2


Diego Luna / The USD Vista This years V2 pitch competition featured eight finalists, four from USD and four from the Cali-Baja area.

Diego Luna / The USD Vista
This years V2 pitch competition featured eight finalists, four from USD and four from the Cali-Baja area.

The journey of an entrepreneur is anything but an easy one. Every year for the past five years, the University of San Diego School of Business has hosted an event unlike any other, with the sole purpose of educating, coaching, and supporting student-entrepreneurs.

The Venture Vetting competition is commonly referred to as the V2 competition. The goal of this event has always been to foster a community of entrepreneurs in an attempt to develop new products, services, and ideas. With the help of professional mentorship and months of training, one would assume that the student-entrepreneurs would breeze right through their presentations.

Actually, that’s far from the truth. The number of entrants tripled and the prize-fund shot through the roof, giving the V2 pitch competition more legitimacy than ever before. The high stakes never phased the sold-out crowd the pressure seemed to take a toll on the student-entrepreneurs.

This year’s V2 competition was held at the Peace and Justice theater inside the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, also known as KIPJ, on Thursday, April 28.

Junior Max Cardinale attended the V2 competition and shared his thoughts on the event and the opportunities it provides for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“This is the first networking event I’ve been to on campus,” Cardinale said. “I thought it was a great event because it allowed students from all over to showcase their entrepreneurial ideas as well as their endeavors. It also allowed students to network and earn the opportunity to work with investors on the big stage.”

The evening started off with the USD entrepreneur venture fair. This is where student-entrepreneurs who did not make it as one of the final eight contestants had the opportunity to showcase their ideas.

Sophomore Connor Spencer is majoring in electrical engineering and explains his journey with his newest project, the BoltBand.

“You know, it started off as a small project,” Spencer said. “BoltBand’s primary use is to track barbell trajectory during Olympic lifting exercises. I created it because I saw a need for a device like this in my own training regimen for football. I started to learn more about open source electronics, and learned the things I needed to make my first prototype of BoltBand.”

Michael Lawless, PhD., leads the entrepreneurship initiatives at the School of Business. Since he founded it in 2011, Lawless has since tripled the scale of the V2 pitch competition.

Lawless elaborated on how he’s been able to create and expand the V2 pitch competition while also recruiting more investors.

“I designed the entire competition,” Lawless said. “We’ve been able to expand this event by means of our USD network, going to pitch nights, getting referrals, and by word-of-mouth.”

All USD V2 participants needed to submit a 10-slide “pitch deck” which is essentially  a powerpoint presentation with 10 slides containing important information pertaining to each business pitch. Second, a round of practicing angel investors selected four finalists from USD and four finalists from the Cali-Baja area. An angel investor is an investor who provides financial backing for startups and entrepreneurships.

Following the Venture Fair outside the KIPJ, the dean of the USD School of Business, Jaime Alonso Gomez, PhD., gave a short introduction and discussed USD’s role in supporting emerging entrepreneurship in Mexico.

“We are very glad to have students from both sides of the border participate in this night’s competition,” Gomez said. “The Mexico-U.S. bordering cities is a $230 billion economy. We want to encourage character, trust, and passion by pushing for a penta-bottom line approach: peace, prosperity, people, planet, and profits.”

Shortly after Gomez’s introduction came the keynote speaker, Tim Suski. Suski graduated from USD in 2008 and since then has successfully launched a few business ventures including Rush Indoor Cycling Studio and Boomr.

Suski shared his advice on entrepreneurship with the audience.

“The world of an entrepreneur is just a bunch of normal people who put themselves in extraordinary positions,” Suski said. “Let’s break the misconceptions and start thinking like entrepreneurs; it’s not a bunch of geniuses. So go out there and create your story, be creative, and get started.”

This message resonated with all the finalists, including the Mexican student-entrepreneurs who also shared some engaging ideas.

Mexico’s four finalists included FXR, Baja Saver, ÑAPANGA, and Agrosol. FXR is a phone application that requests professional services for home repair and maintenance. Baja Saver is an energy saving system that is self-sufficient, serving as an alternative for wind and solar systems. Agrosol is a geographical scanning system that uses drones to fertilize and fumigate agriculture. ÑAPANGA is a craft brewery in Tijuana that is focused on catering to the female population.

Nadia Pelaez is the founder of ÑAPANGA and explains why she chose to have females as her target audience.

“We get asked this question too much you know,” Pelaez said. “We did this because almost 40 percent of women claim to drink craft beer, but most beers in the market are made with men as the target market, that is why we decided to make ‘La Marieta’ Horchata Ale.”

Perhaps the pressure was too much to handle for the man pitching his idea for Baja Saver. As he slowly progressed through his presentation, he completely stopped in the middle of his pitch and froze for an entire minute. He continued to talk with his back turned to the audience, but everyone still applauded his efforts.

On the USD side, the four finalists were Lacy, Foldedcolor, TechMeets Trader, and Like Cats and Dogs.

Lacy is a bra washing machine that was primarily created for washing bras and delicates. FoldedColor is a technology company that makes custom printed packaging. TechMeets Trader is a social media platform for experienced traders and investors. Like Cats and Dogs is a brand of pet toys that makes a toy that is both cat and dog friendly.

This year there were more than 130 submitted projects, some of which featured a bi-national collaboration. Also, five of the eight finalists were created and led by female entrepreneurs.

Junior Miroslava Gomez shared her views on last week’s event.

“Overall I liked the event and how diverse it was,” Gomez said. “But I think there was a lack in enthusiasm from the audience, because many of them started to leave after the first half of the competition.”

Michael Lawless explained what he and his colleagues did to prepare the student-entrepreneurs for the seven minute pitch.

“A big part of what we did is build a network of coaches, investors, and entrepreneurs,” Lawless said. “The preparation for this day is at least a year. There are two big phases; first we identify the opportunity to build the business. The second is to teach our students to pitch in front of an audience which usually takes about three to six months of practicing, coaching, and going to workshops.”

After the seven minute pitch the student entrepreneurs had the chance to meet one on one with the six angel investors.

After the meetings the angel investors revealed their decisions on how they would allocate the $50,000 to the USD track, as well as the additional $50,00 for the Binational track.

For the USD track, Like Cats and Dogs received $2,000, Lacy took $8,000, FoldedColor got $15,000, and TechMeets Trader had the highest investment at a whopping $25,000.

For the Binational track, Baja Saves got $4,000, FXR took $12,000, ÑAPANGA received $14,000, and Agrosol had the highest investment with a staggering $20,000.

The university has the ability to leverage its students by a means of competitions such as the V2 pitch competition, which has been dubbed the USD Shark Tank.

Stephan Aarstol is a USD alumnus who was the keynote speaker to the first V2 competition ever held.

“If people know there’s money available, it gives the competition more legitimacy,” Aarstol said. “It’s a great academic exercise and I think every university should have a similar program, and they are foolish if they don’t. However, I will say this: the money isn’t the important thing, it’s a token, I mean it’s certainly helpful but the more important thing is to say you won.”

The University of San Diego has a notable reputation in the entrepreneurial community.

In fact, USD’s entrepreneurship MBA program is ranked number three globally by the Financial Times. Stephan Aarstol is one of the many success stories that have risen to the surface in the recent years and he strongly encourages the students to grow their ideas to ultimately make the school number one.