Sarah du Pont/Bates College
Each year, Bates club Bobcat Ventures hosts its annual pitch contest, where students compete to win cash to invest in their business venture. While last year’s competition was left untenable due to COVID-19, senior leaders Kerry Manuel ‘21 and Andres Carranza ‘21 are hoping to find the next great innovation within the Bates community.
“The motto of Bobcat Ventures,” started Manuel, “is: ‘Where Entrepreneurship Can Thrive.’ Essentially, we provide a space at Bates for entrepreneurial-minded students to learn skills, gain mentors, network and finally, if they choose to, pitch a product or business to win $10,000 at our pitch competition in May. Bobcat Ventures is a network that starts at Bates and continues into the ‘real-world.’”
The pitch competition, which takes place in May and awards the winning initiative with $10,000, serves as the club’s most important event. It not only provides a financial investment into a college-based business venture, but also connects students with the networks necessary to succeed in actual markets.
The 2019 pitch winner was then senior George DeLana’s ‘19 “Nook,” marketed as the “Airbnb for storage.” Nook allowed for homeowners who lived near college campuses to rent out their space to students for storage at lower costs than industrial storage facilities.
However, the preparation for a venture like Nook starts far before the spring.
“The beauty of Bobcat Ventures,” stressed Manuel, “is that it is open and accessible to anyone – whether you have an established business already, or want to learn more about how to start a business — Bobcat Ventures is for everyone. We hold workshops every Thursday at 4:30 where we bring in a Bates alum to talk to a specific topic.”
In the months leading up to the pitch competition, students receive mentorship and coaching from entrepreneurs in their respective fields to demystify the intimidating process of starting a business.
“Every person or team that decides to pitch in the competition receives a mentor or coach,” explained Manuel. “This was a tradition that started a few years ago and has proved very valuable. You will also gain public-speaking skills that can be applied to many aspects of your life.”
Before the competition, students collaborate with each other, as well as faculty and alumni, to hone their idea for their final pitch, which is evaluated by a panel of judges consisting of Chris Barbin ‘93, Emma Sprague ‘10 and Ben Schippers ‘04.
Carranza emphasized that the incentive for participating in a competition such as this one lies in the profound impact entrepreneurship has on daily life.
“Entrepreneurship,” began Carranza, “is not limited to one type of people or specific industry. On the contrary, it encompasses most areas of our lives, from nonprofits to food and entertainment. It is a culture of creative problem-solvers, of driven individuals and groups.”
While the pitch competition is open to all Bates students who can conceive of an innovative, profitable, and feasible business innovation, students do not need to enter to participate in the club. “You do not need to pitch to join our events,” stated Carranza. “We welcome everyone who wants to learn, discuss, and brainstorm with us.”
The pitch competition will take place May 1, 2021, remotely. Students who hope to participate are encouraged to reach out to [email protected].