By Khalida Sarwari
Andy Kogelnik dreams of building a health care institute that combines genomics, bioinformatics and social networking.
He is well on his way to doing that at the inaugural Silicon Valley County StartUp Cup, a West Valley College-sponsored competition open to entrepreneurs who want to take an idea to market or grow an existing new business. Kogelnik’s company, Open Medicine Institute, is only a year and a half old, but he has hopes of someday reaching tens of thousands of people.
“StartUp Cup seemed like a great opportunity to solidify what we were doing from a business sense,” he said. “It was a way of getting our model road-tested and validated from experts from the business side and see how viable of a model it was.”
The competition began in April with a pool of 25 business ideas with the potential for the greatest success. Out of that number, 12 were chosen to advance to the second round in September. Now, of the remaining seven, three will be chosen as winners in the third and final round on Nov. 1.
Entrepreneurs advance based on how good their pitch is in each round. The first pitch was seven minutes long, the second five minutes and the final pitch will be two minutes. Each time, the judges–a panel of eight to 10 seasoned professionals–ask the entrepreneurs questions and give them suggestions on how they can make their business model a success.
Throughout the process, the judges and coaches see whether the entrepreneurs have taken the feedback they were given and integrated it into their business model.
In between pitches, the entrepreneurs receive coaching advice from expert mentors on understanding customer development, bootstrap funding techniques, team development and revenue generation. They also give the entrepreneurs tips on how to improve their plan, as well as pitching techniques.
Some of the judges in the competition are Dan Gordon, owner of Gordon Biersch Brewery; Bruce Knopf, the county’s director of asset and economic development; and Kris Stadelman, director of Nova.
“Through the seven-month process, the entrepreneurs are rewarded for testing assumptions they make in the beginning,” said organizer Alice Fenton. “They’re encouraged by the judges and coaches to take their idea to market.”
At the conclusion of the competition, the judges will select the top three business models, which will be announced on Nov. 15 at an awards celebration during Global Entrepreneurship Week. The winners of StartUp Cup will receive targeted coaching time focused on their business model needs; the first place winner will receive 20 hours, second place, 15 hours and third place, 10 hours.
The event will be held at West Valley College, where the coaching sessions have been held. StartUp’s founder Sean Griffin is expected to attend the ceremony.
“We target the underserved majority, the people who have an idea for a business and don’t have an opportunity to pursue it because they haven’t had a venue to pursue it,” Fenton said. “Not only is it helping entrepreneurs, but it’s also helping businesses in the community.”
The other six businesses offer a wide range of products and services.
• Vintage Electric, started by West Valley College student Andrew Davidge, provides high-performance electric bikes for everyday commuter and recreational use.
• Betty’s Butterflies Day Care is a bilingual, multicultural day care that employs the Healthy Roots program and Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, focused on raising healthy children.
• Peekaboo Creations is a company that offers fun, safe and stylish children’s products, specializing in sleeping napmats.
• Silicon Valley Play Time is an indoor play space designed for children to be active and creative while developing the skills to share, negotiate and resolve conflict.
• Camp Fashionista is a unique fashion design school for children and young adults.
• ZOONI Leathers is a manufacturer of custom motorcycle racing leather suits.
For more information about the Silicon Valley County StartUp Cup Business Model competition, visit scc.StartUpCup.com.