I was pinged last night by the project manager for this year’s NewSpace Student Business Plan Competition (as opposed to the non-student “NewSpace Business Plan Competition” I just blogged about a week or two ago), asking if I could put the word out for them. I told him I’d be glad to. This is the space-focused business plan competition put on by the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), at their annual Space Vision conference–this year on November 8th at Arizona State University in Tempe. If you’re a student interested in space business, I’d strongly suggest coming up with a plan and throwing your hat into the ring. Here are the websites (here and here) with the details.
Here are the important dates:
- October 1st, 2013 by 23:59 UTC – Deadline to submit the Intent to Compete Form
- October 10th, 2013 by 23:59 UTC – Deadline to Complete Executive Summary
- October 12th, 2012 by 23:59 UTC – 5 Finalists will be invited to compete
- October 20th, 2012 by 23:59 UTC – Invited teams will confirm participation
- November 7-10th, 2012 – Teams will arrive at the ISTB4 for the competition November 8th and banquet November 9th.
- November 9th, 2012 – Awards will be given and winners announced at the Banquet
Once again, if you’re into commercial space, and think you might want to go the entrepreneurial route, and especially if you’re a business student who is interested in space, I’d strongly suggest competing. As I said in my post about the non-student NewSpace Business Plan Competition recently, it’s a great chance to get feedback on your ideas, watch other teams and learn from each others mistakes (and things that other teams do well), learn from the coaches/judges about what investors are looking for in a business, learn to start thinking entrepreneurially, and get to meet other people who are also getting into the entrepreneurial world.
A Word of Warning and a Cautionary Tale
Remember that line from Samwise Gamgee’s “Old Gaffer” in the The Lord of the Rings? “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” I think this is particularly relevant to student business plan competitions. Let me tell you a story to explain why.
Almost exactly 10 years ago, I was a grad student at BYU, working on my Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. I had recently attended my first Space Access conference that spring, and had gone on a “California Rocket Company” road-trip with my then-fiancee to visit/interview-with SpaceX, XCOR, and several other rocket companies and clubs (including the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society in the Bay Area). I had just gotten married a few weeks earlier, and that summer Tiff and I had made the decision to finish up my Masters Degree, and go interview again at SpaceX (which was like 25 people then).
Right before getting engaged to Tiff earlier that spring, I was involved with a team competing in BYU’s annual student business plan competition. We had a concept for making an automated machine that could measure your finger and make you a titanium ring in a short period of time (possibly while you were shopping for other things). Made it to the semi-finals that year, but in spite of all their encouragement of engineering and non-IT startup business plans, the internet startup teams took first and second place again that year. I was pretty burned-out, and wanted nothing to do with the next year’s biz plan competition that was just spooling up a the time.
That fall, I was talking with an engineering friend who I had taken some MBA classes with the previous year. He had just been selected to run the business plan competition that year, and was trying to recruit help. Remembering my involvement in the previous year’s competition, he approached me about helping do an outreach meeting to try and get engineers interested in competing in that year’s competition. I think the conversation went something like this:
Friend: Hey Jon, want to help me pitch the biz plan competition to the engineering students in the Clyde Building tomorrow night?!? The business school really wants to try attracting some non-IT concepts–they say they’re tired of always giving out the prizes to just internet-based business plans.
Me: Didn’t they say that last year?
Me: They say this every year, but then turn around and give the prize to another IT company. Sorry, not interested.
Friend: But…but… there’ll be free pizza!
Me: Hmm…………. Ok. No promises, but I’ll talk with Tiff.
That afternoon, my conversation with Tiff went something like:
Me: Hey Tiff, one of my friends from the MBA program wants my help doing a roll-out for the business plan competition over in the engineering building tonight. Can I go?
Tiff: Didn’t you have a frustrating time last year? I thought you said something about them always talking about wanting non-IT startups, but always just going with the internet plans when they have to make their decision.
Me: Well… Sure, but my friend just wanted some help, I’m not actually planning on competing.
Tiff: You know if you go, you’re going to get an idea.
Me: I’m just going to provide moral support, and there’s going to be free pizza!
Tiff: Suit yourself, but I’m telling you, you’re going to get an idea.
Turns out they cheaped-out, and they didn’t even provide pizza. Just some cheap cookies and punch.
And to make a long story short…I got an idea. A couple emails to Pierce Nichols later, and I was talking with him and Dave Masten (who I had met via the Space Access conference) about joining with them to found a company doing a VTVL suborbital rocket. And the rest, as they say is history.
Sam’s gaffer had it right. Consider yourself warned. 🙂