Represented by Steven Winter ’11, campaign finance software program QuickCampaigns won the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s (YES) Elevator Pitch competition Monday evening.
Ten student competitors gave 60 second “elevator pitches” – so-called for being deliverable in the time of an elevator ride – for new product or service ideas. Judging the pitches was Barry Nalebuff, a professor at the School of Management who co-founded beverage company Honest Tea and has written five books including “Thinking Strategically” and “Why Not?”
The QuickCampaigns software add-on will help political campaigns track and report donor funds and campaign expenditures, a process required by US law, Winter said. The software will work with Intuit’s QuickBooks, an existing software package used by political campaigns as well as many other businesses for accounting purposes. QuickCampaigns co-founders Winter, Seth Bannon, a Harvard senior and Yale College Democrats president Ben Stango ’11 said in October that their program will not be released until early 2011, and even then, will only be sold to Democrats.
When asked about the motivation behind QuickCampaigns, Winter said that after working in politics, he realized that campaigns are technologically behind the curve. “There exists no single software solution that meets all of Democratic campaigns’ financial needs,” he said. “We’re building it.”
He took home a $25 Ashley’s gift certificate for his minute-long pitch
The two runners-up behind QuickCampaigns were Brotankery, a maker of neon-dyed tank tops started by Jonathan Eng’11, and Protein Power, a business run by Casper Alexander ’13 that exports protein powder and other American bodybuilding supplements to Scandinavia.
Eng said he had initially come to the conference just to watch, but decided to compete after hearing several of the other competitors. Brotankery, which sells American Apparel tank tops dyed neon, was started this past summer after Eng and three high-school friends were unable to find suitable tank tops online.
“Within a week, we had a running website and started marketing at raves, concerts, and university campuses,” Eng said. “Now, frats and sororities have discovered that our tanks are a great way to represent their organization on campus,” he added.
Protein Power has likewise kicked off strongly. According to Alexander, the business has sold to 3,000 customers in Denmark, Alexander’s home country, since its launch in February and is expected to hit $100,000 in monthly revenue this month. Alexander said that he and his business partner Holger Sigmar, a 22 year-old law student at the University of Copenhagen, started Protein Power because they were tired of the greed and poor service offered by their now competitors. They decided to start selling the best American nutritional supplement products at the lowest price, he added.
The pitches were well received by Nalebuff, who described the event as lots of “fun and smart ideas.” Nalebuff has researched extensively in innovation and strategy, and has written a best-selling book, “Why Not?” with Law School and School of Management Professor Ian Ayres’81 LAW ’86 on creative problem solving. “There were many ideas worth investing in – though not worth dropping out of school for,” he quipped about the competition.
The Elevator Pitch Competition is the warm-up competition for the Yale Venture Challenge. Last year, the competition gave away over $35,000 in awards, according to the YES website. “As to the Venture Challenge, we will be entering. And we will win,” Winter said in an email.
Uhlenhuth said that the purpose of the Venture Challenge is to give students the chance to learn what it takes to start a profitable business with real-world impact. “The Yale Venture Challenge is geared towards the testing and validation of business hypotheses in pursuit of a viable business model,” he explained.
The Yale Venture Challenge is held annually during the spring.