BYU hosts International Business Model competition

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Jeff Brown lets out a sigh of relief. This is the first time in weeks that he has been able to take a step back and relax. Brown, assistant director for the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the Marriott School of Management, has been preparing non-stop for their upcoming event.

On Friday, BYU hosted the second annual International Business Model Competition. With the event under his belt, Brown has the opportunity to reflect, but quickly switch gears and begin preparing for next year’s competition. The competition was designed to get students from across the world to think about business in new ways.

“The genesis behind the creation of the competition was to support and reward student business founders for identifying and validating the assumptions they make when setting up their companies,” Brown said in an email.

Individual students and teams from around the world were invited to participate in the competition. Teams presented their proposals and qualified for the competition. The final teams were selected and presented their models on campus in the JSB auditorium.

The five student finalists included three BYU models, one Harvard model and one UC Berkeley model. Their business proposals ranged from creating a temporary prosthetic leg for those with leg injuries to helping students in Africa learn by utilizing texting.

These individuals and teams presented their models to a panel of three esteemed judges. Judges included Nathan Furr, assistant professor in the Marriott School of Management and the founder of the competition; Steve Blank, a retired serial entrepreneur and author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany”; and Alex Osterwalder, author of “Business Model Generation” and creator of the business model canvas that BYU management students use.

After the panel of judges questioned all the projects, they deliberated and finally chose a winner. BYU’s Ken Frei and his Xoom Park model won the competition. Frei’s, a business management major from Idaho Falls, Idaho, designed an online system to reserve parking spots when attending events. His idea was formed after he heard a friend complain about parking on BYU campus. He took his friend’s complaint to the next level and created a business out of it.

“It’s been a long process. … We think we have something that people will use,” Frei said. ” We’re excited about launching the business further and [winning] gives the validation that we’ve done a good job.”

Frei received $12,000 for winning the competition and plans on using money specifically to market his business.

Jason Brein, a Harvard business student from York, Penn., received second place for his model on teacher software called Excelegrade. His project focused on helping teachers use software to increase student state educational standards. His experience of the competition and the atmosphere at BYU was a great learning process.

“They [BYU] really isolated the key issues when your a small venture,” Brein said. “The requirements [of the competition] helped me focus my own thinking on what the important aspects of my business model are. … Thanks to BYU for being terrific hosts.”

Though the competition was created for business students, students of all majors were invited and encouraged to attend the event. Brown said it was created for students learn more about the lean start up and business model generation practices that are key to starting a successful company. Anna Ferrin, a ceramics major from Kansas City, Kan., came to the competition interested in applying what she learned to her own life.

“It’s riveting to that students are coming up with concepts that will change the world,” Ferrin said. “As an artist, I have to been an entrepreneur. … It gives me the ideas to do something better.”

Next year’s competition will be held at Harvard University. However, since BYU created the competition, their presence will continued to be acknowledged.

“We were the first ones to start it, so we can always claim being the competition’s flag bearer and founding school which has and will bring BYU many accolades,” Brown said.

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