Rollins Venture Plan Competition
Most trace it to the launch of the wildly successful and three-time Emmy Award winning reality television series “Shark Tank,” which appeared back in 2009. Since then the awareness, the opportunity and competitive dynamic of the venture pitch has become as popular for participants, spectators and investors, in some circles, as professional and collegiate sports.
The Rollins Venture Plan Competition, sponsored by the Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business and hosted by the school’s Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship was started in 2005. It was intended to give Rollins students, alumni and faculty a platform to develop viable business plans to take to the marketplace, while gaining real-world experience that connects them with an influential professional network.
Originally designed for Rollins students and alumni, the door to the competition is now open to ventures headquartered in Central Florida, in the seven county region. “The Venture Plan Competition showcases the importance of education rooted in real-world experience, a cornerstone of the Crummer philosophy,” said Cari Coats, executive director of the Crummer Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship. “The unique partnership that we have with our winners provides them with limitless potential to make a difference in Central Florida’s entrepreneurial scene and in their industry as a whole. We look forward to collaborating with the winners to help build their business even further.”
The results speak for themselves. As of last year, of the 14 companies that have been finalists for the competition since 2012, 13 successfully launched and remain in business. Collectively, those companies have generated $17.8 million in revenue, raised $8 million in investment capital and employ 68 people.
Coming Up Roses
The 2016 winner was the floral design company Details Flowers, which edged out three other finalists in the competition held at Canvs in Winter Park and took home $25,000 in prize money. Details Flowers’ disruptive software makes florists 60 times more productive, allowing them to complete projects that used to take 20 hours, in just 20 minutes with their patent pending design tool.
In addition to the $25,000 cash prize, winners have the option for an additional $25,000 in equity funding as part of a partnership between Rollins College and Winter Park-based early-stage venture capital firm venVelo. Together they have committed equity funding and cash prizes toward winners of the competition for the next three years. This unique partnership provides winners access to a large network of mentors to assist in the success of their business. Last year’s other winners, runners-up Blurtbox, ScopeAround and HuLA, will take home $15,000, $7,500, and $2,500, respectively. The competition also awards $10,000 of in-kind services.
“Winning the Rollins Crummer Venture Plan Competition is so exciting and means everything to us. Our proof of concept is going to change the lives of people in our industry, bringing them into the 21st century,” said Isabella Johnston, CMO, Details Flowers and a graduate of Rollins College. “Participating in Crummer’s competition was a lesson on how important it is for an entrepreneur to be very diligent, open to feedback and surround oneself with a strong team.”
Other winners include FattMerchant in 2015, a flat-rate subscription-based credit card processing service that has experienced meteoric growth in the last few years, and 2012’s flexReceipts, the leading enhanced digital receipts solution for retailers.
The 2017 competition was no exception, with the over 69 applicants narrowed to 14 semi-finalists. The Semi-Final Round, held on March 15th, involved an eight-minute presentation, followed by up to five minutes of questions. This narrowed the field to four, which led to the final round on March 30th.
The Rollins Venture Plan Competition has grown every year in both popularity and in the depth and potential of the finalists. In generating a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, this competition is becoming one of the key elements. ◆