Writer: Isabel A. Rodriguez
After competing for the first time in the Camino Real Venture Competition, New Mexico State University’s team placed third, tying with the team from University of New Mexico.
The competition was held at University of Texas at El Paso on March 9 and 10. It offered students from different schools the opportunity to develop a business plan “from planning stage to product commercialization” and present to a panel of judges.
The team – composed of two business students and one engineering major – met while working at NMSU Arrowhead Center.
Kevin Boberg, associate dean of NMSU’s College of Business, said he was proud of the students taking the initiative to compete in the competition.
“They notify the dean’s office every year [about the competition],” he said. “Student interest in entrepreneurship is growing at NMSU, and this year the students came to Edward Pines (industrial engineering department head) and me with an interest in competing. I think that’s a really big deal.”
The team’s proposal involved converting wet algae to biodiesel through an environmentally-friendly process. The idea stems from research conducted by Shuguang Deng, NMSU chemical engineering professor.
“For the event, we had to write a 16-page business plan that was judged a couple of weeks prior to the actual competition,” said Brittain Catron, graduate student in the business administration program.
“We had 30 minutes to present before a panel of judges (entrepreneurs and venture capitalists). They were really interested in how much money they could make if they invested in our idea; how much would it cost, how are we going to do it and when would they get their money back.”
“We determined that we would need a $1.3 million initial five-year investment,” said Patrick Waggoner, who is also a graduate student in the business administration program. “There would be annual revenues of $600,000. In five years we would sell out to a larger company with an expected return of $5 million.”
Catron and Waggoner relied on their teammate Shanta Thoutam, an engineering graduate student, for guidance, especially when the panel of judges asked technical questions.
Boberg said that the collaboration between engineering and business seems only natural.
“If it’s technology-based, we (business professionals) are not going to sell it, unless engineers make it,” he said. “Business is always at the tail end. There is nothing for commercial purpose without engineering at the front. You need both.”
A total of ten schools competed in the challenge. The U.S. Air Force Academy placed first in the competition.