Students battle for best ideas, pitches during weekend competition

By Ashley Altus

Caffeine and sleep-deprived nights are in store for participants in Baylor’s 3-Day Startup.

In one weekend, students conceptualize ideas to ultimately pitch their products to potential investors. The program shrinks down the process of starting a business into just three days. It is an entrepreneurial education program that encompasses a hands-on model.

Participants will begin their journey at 2 p.m. on Friday at thINC Space, the headquarters for the Baylor Accelerated Ventures program and AV program located in downtown Waco.

Dallas senior Rayann Islam is a mentor in the program and brought the program to Baylor. He said the program introduces students to the startup jungle.

Islam got his start in entrepreneurship as the director of marketing for Luxury Lites, an electronic hookah company. After he participated in 3DS at the University of Texas at Austin this past fall, he said he wanted to bring the experience back to Baylor.

“The dynamic passion and excitement you get working in a room full or students who are all passionate about working on their startups is something to be experienced,” Islam said. “I wanted to bring that entire experience back together because I knew we had an amazing group of high caliber students ready and able to do so.”

On Friday night, each of the 40 students participating will pitch their ideas to the other students and mentors. Students will then vote to narrow down these pitches to pursue five of these ideas for the weekend. Participants will then form groups around the chosen ideas.

On Saturday, students will conduct market research for validation on their idea. Students will then look for 50 to 200 responses for their idea to find potential users and early customers.

“Some groups won’t receive as good market validation and will need to regroup and talk about the next steps,” Islam said.

After market validation, teams work on their pitches and prototype the rest of the day.

On Sunday, the five teams will pitch their ideas to six panelists. Islam said the venture capitalists are angel investors with companies valued at $10 million or more. The participants will pitch their ideas “shark-tank style” at 7 p.m in Kayser Auditorium in the Hankamer School of Business. Final pitches will be open to the public.

Argyle junior Bryce Garoutte is one of the mentors this weekend and founding member of getting 3DS at Baylor. Islam and Garoutte’s partnership with 3DS formed through mutual mentor, Anthony Herrera, the director of career development in the accounting department.

While studying abroad in Italy, Garoutte got a call from Islam to be involved with the event. Garoutte has been recruiting and marketing to Texas universities.

“Our goal is to give entrepreneurs at Baylor a chance to pitch their ideas and have a way to network with venture capitals firms to get access to resources and people they wouldn’t normally get access to,” Garoutte said.

Herrera said success in his eyes will be a new-found energy of entrepreneurship in the business school and across campus.

“I think there is a hunger by non-business students to be a part of an organization with meaning and purpose and directed back to their Christian values, and what better way by developing their own company?” Herrera said.

Islam said participants can expect to make new connections with students in different academic disciplines they wouldn’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis and build an entrepreneurial community.

San Antonio Senior Michael Moreno is also part of the founding team and was recruited for the technical involvement. He said his role this weekend will be to help build prototypes and troubleshoot the technological aspects of business.

“Applicants will have to figure out how to take these big visionary products and simplify them into a viable product or concept they can articulate to investors,” he said. “I think that will be the biggest struggle they’ll have to deal with.”

Islam needed 50 student signatures and $15,000 in order to get the program at Baylor. Islam said he ended up getting 200 signatures and raised the funds through the support of successful Baylor alumni entrepreneurs.

Herrera said he hopes he sees students launch sustainable, relevant companies that make a difference in their communities.

“The millennial generation maybe isn’t necessarily interested in working for somebody, but starting something of their own and adding value to be a change agent for the community and the world,” Herrera said.

If 3DS is a success, Islam said, he hopes to have a semester program at Baylor after this weekend’s run.
“I hope it’s a good fit for us and it helps our students to launch a business,” Herrera said.