Planting SEEDs

Young Entrepreneurs Vie for Capital Investments at Upcoming Venture Forum

Entrepreneurship: the process of looking at things in such a way that possible solutions to the problems and perceived needs may evolve in venturing. The question that will soon face many young, creative minds is will these solutions actually work?

On March 2 and 3, Santa Barbara will host nine teams from universities across the country who will be participating in the fourth annual Spirit of Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (S.E.E.D.) National Collegiate Venture Forum, one of the largest collegiate level entrepreneurship forums in California.

Businesses five years or younger comprise 70% of net job creation in the United States. It is this statistic that is the driving force behind the forum, a place “for creative and aggressive student minds to explore opportunities in the business world,” says Dr. David Newton, the professor of entrepreneurial finance at Westmont College who will be serving as the primary host for the event. Dr. Newton is also the founder and president of TechKnowledge Point Corp, the world’s first and only online 24/7 entrepreneurship research and referral exchange.

The goal of SEED is to assist top collegiate ventures in securing capital funding. Major universities from all around the country compete for the opportunity to come to Santa Barbara and present their business plans to a panel of judges and a crowd of capital investors.

Their method is simple. First, contestants must complete preliminary rounds in their hometowns. The most promising ventures are then invited to the forum, where they will be able to present their business plans to a world-class panel of evaluators, early stage investors and product development and market-industry specialists. Each team will be allotted 20 minutes to present its business plan.

Dr. Newton says there are three levels of success for those participating. “First, try and get funded,” he explains. “Second, make strategic partnerships with investors willing to help make your product better. Third, learn through critique and dialogue with others about different ways to think through the business.”

What to Expect

Nine universities were invited to the forum: Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Washington State University, University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon University, University of San Francisco, Loyola Marymount University, University of Georgia, John Carroll University and Johns Hopkins University, which will compete in alliance with students from the University of Maryland and Yale.

The final trio seems to be the team to watch. Their product, AIDN, is designed to produce a cost-effective wireless monitor to provide time-critical, hospital-wide, 24/7 patient status updates to healthcare providers. The device is worn as a wristband and relays signals such as pulse, blood pressure and EKG over a wireless network.

In the past two years, Westmont College has qualified for the event, but this year the larger universities and graduate programs proved to be too competitive, says Dr. Newton. Even though a Westmont team will not be participating in the forum, the college is heavily supporting the event.

Eric Conwell, Dr. Newton’s student intern, is responsible for much of the planning, scheduling and promoting for the event. Many other students and faculty are also assisting with the behind-the-scenes work for the forum.

The forum will be the premiere of the new iTunes-U, a system that will allow marketing plans to be recorded in podcasts so that investors can go back and hear the synopsis of a project. TechKnowledge Point and SEED will be the first entrepreneurial-venture capital forum to introduce the new iTunes-U online interface. The tool will allow investors to listen to a 90-second overview of the business concept, otherwise known as an “elevator pitch,” which will enable them to review a larger number of plans more quickly.

iTunes-U, says Dr. Newton, will “produce a standard in the industry of how business plans are reviewed. This is a breakthrough for investors.”

Forum Details

The speakers are this year’s highlight. During the Friday luncheon, UCSB graduate Dr. Yulun Wang, the founder and CEO of InTouch Health, will be doing a live demonstration of his company’s award-winning wireless-enabled medical robot. This device enables physicians to complete patient rounds at numerous facilities while working from one central command center.

John Couch, vice president of global education at Apple, will speak at the banquet on Friday evening on the specific details and goals for iTunes-U. The closing luncheon on Saturday will feature Ali Velshi, senior business anchor for CNN, who will discuss the “state of business” in America and the role of entrepreneurship in private enterprise.

The first-round presentations will take place on Friday, March 2, from 1:30 pm to 4:15 pm, at the Hotel Andalucia. The final four business plans will be announced at the banquet that evening, and the finals will be held on Saturday, March 3 from 8:30 am to 11 am. The luncheons cost $50 and the networking banquet is $95. Student presentations are free and open to the public.

For tickets to the banquet or luncheons or for more information on the event, contact Dr. David Newton at 455-7813 or