University of Nebraska–Lincoln student entrepreneurs spent the weekend of Feb. 10-12 in Howard L. Hawks Hall and put their business-building abilities to the test through the Center for Entrepreneurship 48-Hour Challenge. In only two days, students collaborated with like-minded peers outside their daily networks and built functional startups from idea to pitch.
“We want to provide students with an experiential learning event that fully immerses them in the entrepreneurial process of opportunity recognition, evaluation and capitalization,” said Sam Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. “The 48-Hour Challenge requires them to work in a team environment with strict time constraints and very specific deliverables. During the weekend, students can expand their network of fellow students and members of the startup community within Nebraska.”
Offered as a pop-up course, the 48-Hour Challenge: Building Entrepreneurial Teams and Testing Ideas (ENTR 325) class allows students to experience the highs, lows, fun and pressure of developing an idea into an early-stage business.
“The time crunch really made us think and work hard. I now have the skill set to be able to not only present but also create a business plan and get my business off the ground,” said Vanessa Cruz-Alatriste, a senior advertising and public relations major from Lincoln.
Open to all majors at Nebraska, the challenge brought students together to network and collaborate with peers from six colleges on campus. Cruz-Alatriste shared the benefits of having an interdisciplinary team.
“We all brought different skill sets to the table. From there, we learned how to work and get over problems, and elevate each other up in creating the best idea through our efforts,” Cruz-Alatriste said.
Local entrepreneurs joined students throughout the weekend to guide and mentor the teams during the hectic weekend. Rebecca Pearson, co-owner of 93.7 The Ticket, a local sports radio station, helped students hone their business plans.
“When you’ve got a bunch of people who are motivated to do something like this, they have too many ideas. As an entrepreneur or when running a business, you need to know how to cull down the ideas and not have too many, because there are lots of good ones in there,” Pearson said. “I helped students articulate the problem they were trying to solve so the core idea could be better shared in their presentation. I also encouraged them to put some of their ideas into a future phase of the plan.”
As an entrepreneur, Pearson believes the challenge served as a positive influence on the startup community. She explained the value of the tight time constraints for aspiring entrepreneurs and the need for innovative ideas like she heard throughout the weekend.
“If you give people too much time, they don’t innovate — the core of innovation is to do it quickly and focus on what it is,” Pearson said. “I don’t think I had exposure to any idea I didn’t think was good. Some are harder than others, but I thought they all identified a problem to be solved.”
Top teams earned cash prizes at the end of the weekend, along with an award for social media interaction. Abdullah Al Musharfi, a senior marketing major from Muscat, Oman, shared the value of winning the challenge with his team.
“This competition helped expand my business idea. Before, it was a small business idea, but after this class, it became an idea that we, as a group, could make to help the community,” said Al Musharfi, whose team plans to enter their business plan in the center’s New Venture Competition this spring.
As part of the center’s series of competitions, the 48-Hour Challenge leads up to the New Venture Competition, where student entrepreneurs pitch their business venture to win a total of $15,000 in cash prizes and possibly an additional $25,000 investment from the Husker Venture Fund. Nelson invites all undergraduate and graduate students at Nebraska who are interested in entrepreneurship to visit the center.
“I encourage any university student considering participating to contact the Center for Entrepreneurship for more details on how to best prepare for the New Venture Competition. I also encourage any student interested in entrepreneurship to attend the presentations as they are all open to the public. It’s a great way to learn about new ideas and the entrepreneurial process as well as to expand your professional network,” Nelson said.
The winning teams and students include:
- First Place: Abdullah Al Musharfi, senior marketing major from Muscat, Oman; Vanessa Cruz-Alatriste, senior advertising and public relations major from Lincoln; Cameron King, junior advertising and public relations major from Omaha, Neb.; Sam Lawton, junior emerging media arts major from Blair, Neb.; Deya Mohamed, junior supply chain management major from Khartoum, Sudan
- Second Place: Melanie Summers, freshman biochemistry major from Lincoln
- Third Place: Harrison Boesch, sophomore agricultural and environmental science communications major from Lincoln; Markus Kittlaus, senior management major from Park Ridge, Ill.; Evan Marsh, senior biological systems engineering major from Plymouth, Minn.; Damien Niyonshuti, senior integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda; Kyran Thomas, junior accounting major from Lincoln; Eric Yim, junior computer science major from Lincoln
- Social Media Challenge: Harrison Boesch