Venture Labs: The “Super Bowl” of Investment Competitions

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Since 1984, teams of graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin have competed in an effort to win a competition designed to mimic the real world process for gaining venture funding to start a new company. Originally known as the “Moot Corp” competition — modeled on a law school moot court competition — graduate business school student teams from across the globe have successfully launched businesses, receiving millions of dollars in venture capital funding from a variety of sources.

Rob Adams, Ph.D., director of the Venture Labs Investment Competition and a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Management, notes that the mandate of the competition is to increase the number of start-up companies on campus and to accelerate their access to the marketplace. “Venture Labs gives student teams involved in the competition access to legal, technological, entrepreneurial and business resources as well as multiple opportunities for networking during the three-day competition,” he adds.

Only ideas conceived by graduate business students are eligible to participate. The 40 teams that participate come from MBA programs around the world via two channels: they are either invited to participate or win a feeder competition. Feeder competitions include 19 competitions around the world. Business Schools in Australia, Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Columbia and the United States.

The competition winner, known as the Global Champion, receives a total of $135,000 in cash, consulting and mentoring. Other awards include those for outstanding business plan, outstanding presentation, outstanding product and outstanding market.

The name of the competition changed in 2011 to reflect the competition’s focus, which is “a forum where MBAs from around the world launch their ventures by raising capital. The competition parallels the real-world process and realities of developing and launching a venture backed company,” notes Adams. Adams is the founder of Tejas Venture Partners and previously founded AV Labs, an early stage venture fund.

Past winners of the competition have brought a variety of ideas from different industries to success at the Venture Labs competition. Many winners and runners-up have gone on to find success in the marketplace. These include Dynamics, a semi-finalist in the 2009 competition which closed a $5.7 million offering for it’s revolutionary paper-thin computer platform. Focal Pop, a 2009 winner of the Outstanding Platform and Outstanding Market, Division V, launched a platform for photography and represents photographers in more than 100 countries currently.

Photo credit: Parker Michael Knight

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