Students win $20,000 in business plan competition

The School of Business awarded a group of master’s students $20,000 on Saturday to create downloadable video tours of museums and other attractions.

The award was given to the winner of the first annual GW Business Plan competition, which challenges students to devise unique business ideas. The group, Keen Guides, hopes to develop tours that are available on iPhones and Blackberries.

“This money will allow us to build up company infrastructure,” said Frank McNally, a member of the winning team and chief administrative officer of Keen Guides. “This is a great opportunity for us and [the prize money] removes a lot of the pressure. We were just bootstrapping before.”

Members of Keen Guides hope the tours, which will include museums, colleges and cities, will be available for download this summer. The company was first started by another teammate, Catherine McNally, who is deaf and wanted to make tours available to everyone.

The competition was hosted by the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence and sponsored by Annette and Richard Scott, benefactors to the School of Business. It was open to GW students from across the University, including both undergraduate and graduate students.

The competition was the brainchild of John Rollins, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship, as a way help students with innovative business ideas.

“There are few opportunities at GW for entrepreneurship,” Rollins said.

It began with 210 students and was narrowed down to four teams who each presented their business plans before a panel of judges, comprised of six business leaders. The judges reviewed each contestant’s written and oral presentations before asking them questions during the oral portion.

Although Keen Guides took home the big prize, the second-, third- and fourth-place finalists were awarded $6,000, $3,000 and $1,000 respectively.

Deepak Haridas, a graduate student in the College of Professional Studies and team member of third-place finisher, Kalpa Energy, said he was proud to be a finalist and called the competition a great experience.

“We thought that the competition was all about the prize money,” Haridas explained. “But after they announced the winners, we realized it’s not about the money . it’s about reaching our dreams.”

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