My 2020 Virtual Venture Competition Season – in 2D

This year’s university venture competitions, those that I had the privilege to attend, proceeded successfully on Zoom this year. Although it’s great to save time by watching two-dimensional presentations and chatting questions to the panel, I missed having the chance to say hello to fellow judges and meet the college student competitors. It’s always inspiring to listen to young entrepreneurs. University students win FIRST PRIZE in general for freshness, passion and alacrity.

This year, I joined the judging panel of the McGinnis Venture Competition at Carnegie-Mellon University, as well as the Business to Business Track Panel at Northwestern’s VentureCat competition. Both organizations handled the communications platform seamlessly, and the presentations were successful in terms of providing two-dimensional detail.

I had to fill in a lot of the details about the team using my imagination though. I find that body language, style and personal aura actually provide a lot of information when I evaluate a company for investment. Giving this some thought. I realized that I rely heavily on personal impressions gathered from direclty observing pitchers as a heuristic for some of my decision-making.

PIcking good investments has been described as an example of using pattern recognition. Some “winning” patterns that I have picked up from in-person meetings are as follows:

  1. Great attention to detail in clothing and grooming.

  2. Confident, respectful and attentive body language.

  3. “Plugged-in” interaction with physical space and other living entities.

In both virtual competitions, there was simply no way to observe these aspects. Nevertheless, the presentations were interesting, the business plans feasible and the virtual format went off smoothly.

Without relying on heuristics, I was able to pick out my two favorites. From Carnegie-Mellon, the winner of the Undergraduate Category. AgotAi impressed me with the progress they have made in their beta version at a local line restaurant. I have not seen many undergrads install a beta version in my time as a judge. Over on Northwestern’s platform, I enjoyed meeting up with Gearflow, an marketplace solution for construction equipment and services.

Please reach out to me if you were a presenting team and have some more information to share; I’d be very happy to learn more about your company.

Check out all of the 2020 McGinnis competition winners here.

Have a look at the summary from VentureCat here.

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