A team of four Davidson College students emerged as winners on their home turf in this year's Next Play Venture Tournament, held in the Alvarez College Union last weekend. The second annual edition of this unique contest attracted teams from 13 colleges and universities nationwide to pitch panels of judges their business plans about sustainability and sports.
On Friday, the teams presented their pitches to three different panels of judges. Based on the judges' points, they were then seeded in brackets on Saturday, going head-to-head to either be eliminated or survive to a subsequent round. The judges represented 30 organizations, including venture capital firms, companies, non-profits, local government agencies and entrepreneurs.
The Davidson team-Max Feinstein '16, Emma Johnson '17, Arielle Korman '17 and Catherine Wu '16-received $8,000 as first-place winner in the non-profit category. It will provide continued operation of the two-year-old YouthMAP program, which provides weekly lessons in photography to young residents at local foster homes, giving them the opportunity to explore a creative outlet.
With its new funding from the tournament win, YouthMAP will partner with local sports programs to expose their participants to organized athletics while simultaneously demonstrating the benefits of sports firsthand. Johnson, of YouthMAP, said, "The Next Play was a great way to meet some of the most innovative minds in the college world. I enjoyed talking to other teams and learning how they arrived at their ideas and where they plan to take them."
SoccerGrl Probs, representing Fairfield University, took first place in the for-profit track of the competition, earning $8,000 and a membership into Project for Innovation, Energy and Sustainability (PiES), a start-up incubator in Davidson. SoccerGrl Probs' social sustainability mission is to support and encourage the well-being and positive self-image of young female athletes everywhere through social media and apparel products.
The for-profit runner-up, GuruSkins.com representing the University of Tennessee - Knoxville, is developing a platform to connect artists and designers with board sport enthusiasts to create more environmentally friendly "skins" for boards that also extend the life of the boards to reduce waste. Jake Rheude of GuruSkins tweeted after the closing ceremony that the $5,000 prize moves his team even closer to making their ideas a reality-"@The_Next_Play so thankful for 2nd place and $5,000 to develop @GuruSkins for a fall launch!!"
The non-profit runner-up, Gauntlet of Legends from Concordia University at St. Paul, received $5,000 toward their mission of promoting a healthier and fun lifestyle for teens, all while helping them gain confidence and strength through a training period that culminates in a 3K obstacle race.
Teams had the opportunity to receive extensive feedback from judges, which allowed them to refine their pitches and business plans throughout the competition. A member of Gauntlet of Legends said, "The judging was very helpful and insightful."
Carly Beyar of SoccerGrl Probs said, "Friday we felt like we won already just because of all the knowledge and experience we got from the feedback sessions. The competition as a whole has been so rewarding."
In addition to making pitches, participants heard talks about entrepreneurship and venture funding from five leaders in the field-Dan Driscoll from reQwip.com (last year's for-profit winner of The Next Play); Andrew Lovedale '09 from Access2Success; Laurie Walker from PiES; NFL player Will Witherspoon, who owns a sustainable grass-fed cattle farm; and Maryanne McGowan from Duke Energy.
The prizes were made possible by sponsors Duke Energy, Ingersoll Rand, Waste Management and PiES. The competition received additional promotional support from the Green Sports Alliance.
"Thanks to the dedication of judges, sponsors, competitors and our sustainability team, the competition was a great success!," said Davidson College's Director of Sustainability Jeff Mittelstadt. "This week we start on next year's version!"
For more information, or to become a sponsor, judge or competitor in next year's tournament, contact Jeff Mittelstadt, visit nextplayventure.org or call 704-880-5702.