The Entrepreneur Quest (EQ) Student Accelerator competition gives students with unique, innovative business ideas a chance to win $30,000 to make their ideas come to life.
EQ is an UM System-wide competition where young entrepreneurs from all four institutions compete within their schools for a top three spot for the initial $30,000.
Then, the finalists from each of the UM System schools present their final, refined pitches. The top three win an additional $30,000 to kick-start their businesses or expand on the companies they have already built.
The first stage of the MU competition was held Monday, Nov. 18, where 15 teams pitched their business ideas to a panel of five local Columbia entrepreneurs.
A third of the teams competing represent the College of Engineering with business ventures offering one-stop athletic apparel and equipment, tackling untrustworthy package delivery and connecting those who need tasks done to those who will complete them.
Maxwell Fazekas, an electrical engineering graduate student, fixes broken phones and computers at a much cheaper cost than buying a new one or getting it repaired by other parties.
His company, Max Fix, has a space in the MU Student Center where anyone can get their cracked screens replaced, sell their old phones, or get their keyboard fixed while also receiving free repair advice.
Fazekas has been in the business from the beginning, saying “I’ve been repairing phones since the iPhone 3G and when Blackberry was still cool.”
The EQ competition offers Fazekas a rare opportunity to expand his business and merge the worlds of engineering and entrepreneurship.
“Engineering is all about math and the numbers— it’s a huge shift to be pitching your business and talking in front of people,” Fazekas said. “With engineering, it’s always technical specs and straight to the point whereas this, you need to explain a little bit more.”
The pitch competition gives teams two minutes to differentiate their company from competitors and convince the judges their idea is worth the investment. Then judges get two minutes for a Q&A session with the teams.
Hayden Seidel is a civil and environmental engineering student and co-founder of the company Printerior which uses recyclable materials to 3D print custom furniture.
His business partner, Trent Esser, is a part of the Trulaske College of Business, and this interdisciplinary mix is what Seidel thinks is the perfect combination for starting a company.
“I think it’s cool being in a pitch competition with mostly business students because I am engineering,” Seidel said. “I’ve got a pretty heavy design background— I know to use a lot of the computer software which is the reason I’m thriving on the 3D printing side. My business partner, Trent, is doing mostly the business model and sales.”
The top 11 pitches moved onto the spring semester portion of the competition that provides students with coaching, educational workshops and demo days to develop the best possible business plans.
The College’s students represent three of the semi-finalist teams that have moved onto the next portion of the competition:
- Max Fix- Maxwell Fazekas (College of Engineering)
- Pollinate- Drew Patel (College of Engineering)
- Printeroir- Hayden Seidel (College of Engineering) and Trent Esser (Trulaske College of Business)