April 25, 2012

Outrageously Successful

Businesses first pitched as part of Columbia’s A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition are proving that visionary thinking is a key to entrepreneurial success.


Outrageously Successful

From left to right: Jennifer Wright ’09, Matthew Wang ’05, Shazi Visram ’04, Ntiedo “NT” Etuk ’02. Photo: Mike McGregor.

“Very ambitious, but not flaky” — that’s how Murray Low, director of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, defines “outrageous” in the context of Columbia’s A. Lorne Weil Outrageous Business Plan Competition.

Each spring, student teams present two-minute elevator pitch videos — literally filmed in Uris Hall’s elevators — to a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and faculty members who select five or six finalists to field judges’ questions. Winners receive cash prizes totaling $14,000. “The competition very much simulates the experience that entrepreneurs go through when they’re trying to get funding,” says competition founder and judge A. Lorne Weil ’71, CEO of Scientific Games Corporation and a member of the School’s Board of Overseers.

The competition has led to more than 30 thriving businesses — from liquid-filled cartridges that snap onto glasses to form instant mixed cocktails (Wix Industries, founded by Nick Friend ’11) to a website about relationships (Your Tango, founded by Andrea Miller ’02). Such success is not only a testament to the visionary thinking the competition inspires; it’s also indicative of a certain stick-to-itiveness. In the words of Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up!”

Where Are They Now?

Ntiedo “NT” Etuk ’02: Play Hard, Learn More — Win Big

Jeremy Miller ’10: The ABCs of FSAs

Shazi Visram ’04: Helping Parents Think Outside the Jar

Matthew Wang ’05: At the Top of His Games

Jennifer Wright ’09 (EMBA): Delivering a Better Pizza Box

Want to see pitches from this year’s competition? Murray Low’s April 24 column in the Huffington Post features 12 student videos from the event.

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