McCombs to host annual graduate student investment competition

Leila Ruiz

The McCombs School of Business will host its annual Global Venture Labs Investment Competition, the oldest investment competition for graduate student entrepreneurs, Thursday through Saturday at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. 

The competition will feature 38 teams from 12 countries, all of which went through other qualifying competitions, according to Aimy Steadman, an Accenture venture partner at the business school. 

“The Global VLIC is the final competition for a network of affiliated competitions — teams gain admittance by winning a qualifying U.S. or international competition, or via the open berth system,” Steadman said in an email. “Hosting such an event attracts the best and brightest entrepreneurial minds, and provides the opportunity to continue distinguishing ourselves as a leader in entrepreneurship and business education.”

The event will be comprised of multiple rounds, with teams competing in different divisions, said Steadman. The competition will include a separate clean energy prize sponsored by Wells Fargo and an elevator-pitch challenge, which will actually be held in the UT Tower elevator this year. 

Dan Kleinbaum, whose company won first runner up in last year’s competition, described the process as both grueling and exhilarating for an entrepreneur. Kleinbaum’s company, Beyonic, aims to eliminate the need to use cash in emerging markets and currently operates in Uganda and Kenya. According to Kleinbaum, the most difficult part of the competition was trying to please everyone: He admits that is impossible. 

“We were asked important questions about our business and given an opportunity to iterate over our pitch and presentation to create something that really resonated with investors and the audience,” Kleinbaum said. “We launched Beyonic out of [the Master’s of Science in Technology Commercialization Program], and the VLIC helped prepare us and Beyonic for launch.”

Cole Watson, philosophy sophomore and WE Coaching co-founder and consultant, said competitions like the Global VLIC are crucial for helping young entrepreneurs to be motivated and raise the funds to pursue their goals.

“For young adults and college students to be entering in this competition, it really shows the drive it takes to be part of the economy as a whole in America,” Watson said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to help fund their business and to inspire other people who are on the fence about starting their own businesses to really go for it.”