For the past several months, the 2013 Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition has been building to a dramatic crescendo.
Following a series of remarkable oral presentations last weekend, 18 teams, six in each of the three divisions — Graduate and Undergraduate High Growth and Small Business — were named as Governor's Cup finalists.
Those finalists are excited and filled with a contagious sense of accomplishment.
Individually, they have stepped out well beyond their comfort zones. Marketing students learned finance. Engineers experienced the importance of talking to customers. Business students learned how to evaluate advanced technologies.
As teams, they developed business plans that more than passed muster with multiple panels of judges. They demonstrated that they can articulate and defend a compelling financial case. They learned about the tenacity and flexibility required to start up a company.
Students will sometimes say, perhaps with some truth, that academia is academia and not the real world. As Lowell Busenitz — Ph.D. and academic director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at OU and multiyear team adviser — observed, the Governor's Cup competition turns that on its head.
“From a professor's standpoint, instead of me saying, ‘you need to do this,' a business plan competition like the Governor's Cup brings in venture capitalists, angels and experienced entrepreneurs as judges,” Busenitz said. “They set the bar for a legitimate plan and arguments of why a venture might be successful and where it's going to have challenges. It is no longer what the professor says, it's what the external market and real-world judges bring to the table.”
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Since inception, the Oklahoma Governor's Cup has awarded more than $1.2 million in cash, scholarships, and fellowships.