First place winners: gTagCard
Maggie Mylinska, Sergei Shevlyagin
It was a very competitive process for eight dedicated teams to get to the Academy’s Innovation Teams Entrepreneurship Competition final presentation round, but the students excelled as they showcased their business plans for taking companies to the next strategic level. This is the first year that the Academy has sponsored and organized this prestigious entrepreneurial competition, and the quality and diversity of the student participants was inspiring.
Seventeen unique majors were represented from across the campus, involving undergraduate to MBA to PhD students. Joseph Simon, second place winner for his work on SolHome LLC commented of his teams’ work dynamic, “From the very beginning we were committed and we really built on the individual strengths of everyone on our team, because we were very diverse majors from engineering to architecture, to MBAs, and we worked with everyone’s abilities.”
Innovation Teams was designed to allow all students the opportunity to participate in an entrepreneurial competition, regardless of if they have started a business in the past. Students either entered their own start-up firm in the competition, or they applied to become a part of a team that was paired with an existing outside company. These students gained valuable insight into the entrepreneurial process without having to start and run a new business while in school.
Local companies including, IllinoisVentures, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and University faculty have each supplied ventures to this competition and were anxious to advise the student teams and utilize the completed business plans. Mikel Rouse project team member and graphic designer Travis Austin said of his experience working with the Krannert Center and the Academy on the project, “Basically we found innovation within ourselves as well as within our team, trying to innovate someone else and something else, so that’s a lesson that we can take with us for the rest of our lives.”
Mentoring of student groups is a distinguishing component of Innovation Teams, and the Academy teaches the Nascent Entrepreneur Workshop series to draw students through the entrepreneurial process, while also working with them on an individual basis as teams develop questions and want to expand portions of their business plans. First place winner Maggie Myslinska of gTagCard explains how the entire learning process added to her Illinois experience. “Coming from an engineering background and having taking all the technology classes while I was here, I kind of feel like some of it was missing, even though I’ve taken some business classes there was really never an experience that would really put it all together and make me be able to deliver everything in one package everything from my engineering background and from a business standpoint so I feel like this is what it gave me and it added to my education and to my experience at college.”
The Academy is extremely proud of all the students who competed in Innovation Teams this year, and applauds the hard work and dedication that each team poured into their venture plans. We are thrilled that this competition brought together groups of students from across the campus, giving them all unique leadership experiences and an enhanced understanding and appreciation for the entrepreneurial process. Second place winner from SolHome LLC, Jennifer Hoffman, commented on what she learned about entrepreneurship, “You have to really take an idea, that’s a thought or concept, and actually look at it on a variety of dimensions and find out how you can make it an opportunity.”