Student Entrepreneurs Gain the Experience, Contacts and Confidence Necessary to Launch Their Own Companies.
By Brad Broberg
From the stairwell, the voices sound like a distant river. At the doorway, they grow to a dull roar. Finally, as if rounding a bend and finding a waterfall, you enter the HUB's West Ballroom and the noise becomes a torrent--raw capitalism at full churn.
Inside, 35 teams of business students from four universities are striving to make a splash. And with good reason. They are pitching business plans--everything from a drive-up video store to a funeral parlor co-op--to people who could help any one of them become the next Bill Gates ... or at least the next Pete Findley.
Findley, '98, may never match the Microsoft mogul's billions, but this University of Washington graduate already has a place in history. Findley and his former partner and classmate, Alexa Ingram-Cauchi, won the University's first Business Plan Competition last year. Since that time, Findley has built their contest entry, Cybercamps, into a multimillion dollar business.
On this gray day in May, UW student Jonathan P. Nicholas is trying to be the next Findley--and pocket a $25,000 first prize.
His booth is part of the "investment round" of the 1999 Business Plan Competition, the marquee component of the UW's burgeoning Program in Entrepreneurship and Innovation (PEI).
Students are crammed into the HUB with their elaborate booths to display, demonstrate and describe their projects. They also prowl the ballroom floor in pursuit of the bankers, business owners and venture capitalists who are judging the contest.
Nicholas is working the room like a highbrow carnie. Clad in a dark blue suit with a white handkerchief tucked into his breast pocket, he spots Bill McAleer cruising between booths.
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