The entrepreneurial spirit of some Batesies comes out in the form of Bobcat Ventures, a student organization that inspires and rewards students who innovate and develop their own business pursuits. It is a place where students explore various business models in the Bates way. Ideas bounce around in an “environment where you can get feedback from your peers and from outside mentors” said senior Ben Wilentz. He added that students also attend workshops in “communication skills, specifically dealing with difficult conversations that may come up over the course of developing a business.” The Student sat down with one of the leaders, junior Creighton Foulkes, to gain a better understanding of the decision-making that occurs in the club.

The Bates Student: What are some of the business proposals that have been introduced?

Creighton Foulkes: Ideas in the competition this year range from a team hoping to put a smoothie cart on campus to two seniors building on a thesis project. The team is creating drones with their own software to be used for real estate companies and private events providing videography and photography services. Other ideas include a service designed to connect students with internships in a particular city so that they can more efficiently arrange housing options. There is also a web development and social media marketing company that has already completed a few projects. There are 7 teams competing.

BS: Why has there been an increase in the funding provided?

CF: Funding has been increased partly due to the success of the competition along with the fact that we have been working with the Advancement Office to raise the funds as well. [This year, the grand prize totals to $11,000, compared to last year’s $5,000.] We are extremely grateful for the support from alumni that we’ve received and the competition wouldn’t be possible without their support.

BS: What did the winners do with last year’s prize money?

CF: The team that won last year was an app that could create an image overlay sequence from taking a video. It never made it to the App Store, but we are working on a better system to hold the teams accountable for the use of the prize money.*

BS: What is the purpose of the workshops and how can students utilize them properly?

CF: The workshops have been led by alumni and people from the Maine community. These include Don Gooding from the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Reid Christian, an alumni currently working in venture capital in Boston for Battery Ventures, and Ross Brockman, one of the founders of Downeast Cider.  These are just a few of the workshops that we’ve held which are designed to help students focus on their ideas as well as learn more about what it takes to start and build a company along with the different stages of the startup process. These workshops also hope to connect students with Bates alumni and make them realize the possibilities and advantages of being an entrepreneur with a liberal arts background.

According to Ned Donaldson, a recent Bates alum and winner of the Bobcat Ventures, the business ideas are presented “via slide deck to a panel of judges throughout the course of an afternoon during short term. After that, the judges deliberated and chose 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place companies based off of the viability of the business plan and strength of product.” Donaldson chose to split the money he received because they were all going to reside in different locations. This year’s competition will take place April 2 at 11:00 am.

*Correction: The name of the app was changed to SpotShot and was put on the app store by one of last year’s winners, Peter Cole. The info provided to The Student was based off of searches for the app under its original name, Sequencer.*