By David Rogers. April 1, 2016. BOONE, NC — Taking out the trash took center stage, in a fashion, at Appalachian State University’s “Pitch Your Idea” competition hosted by the school’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.
COVER IMAGE: “Pitch Your Idea” competition winner Zak Ammar introduces his business idea, Vixster. All photos made available to Blowing Rock News by the Transportation Center for Entrepreneurship
As the saying goes, if your business is not being monetized — earning revenue — it is just a hobby. So it’s hardly a surprise that sales guru and Appalachian State alum Bobby Martin would launch (and eventually cash in on) two successful entrepreneurial ventures, become an angel investor serving on the board of innovative start-up businesses, and write a soon-to-be-released book, The Hockey Stick Principles (2016, Flatiron Books/Macmillan Publishers, New York) that describes the common ingredients of the sales and revenue success enjoyed by some of the world’s biggest blockbuster enterprises: Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google, Salesforce.com, Sageworks, Red Hat Software, Lending Tree, Bronto Software, iContact, and his own company, First Research.
So the now 40-something Martin brought back to his alma mater and the Center for Entrepreneurship a special amount of entrepreneurial and business insight on March 24th as the banner sponsor for the university’s “Pitch Your Idea” competition at the Holmes Convocation Center. He spoke in front of a panel of judges for the “Pitch Your Idea” competition and an audience consisting of fellow students, as well as faculty, friends, family and sponsors, many of whom attended the preceding Harlan Boyles Distinguished CEO Lecture Series event produced by the Walker College of Business.
Following a road map is a road to the predictable; innovating is an uncharted journey of discovery.
Both in his book (to be released May 24, 2016) and to the students, Martin observes that those now mega-companies started out small and may have appeared to be struggling in their first few years. Noting that a chart of these companies’ respective revenue growth looks like a hockey stick, relatively flatlining for 2-3 years before accelerating upwards, Martin explains that you can do all of the planning in the world, but in the early years you are putting plans into action and then adapting, even altering direction in mid-course as new realities are discovered.
“Following a road map is a road to the predictable; innovating is an uncharted journey of discovery,” Martin writes as “Hockey Stick Principle #4” in his book.
Ten student finalists presented to the judging panel and audience after being selected as “the 10 most innovative ideas” by a panel of faculty members. Each finalist has two minutes to “pitch their ideas” to the judges and win a share of $2,000 in prize money. The audience got in on the action, too, with $500 going to the student voted as the “Audience Choice” — which didn’t have to be the same winning entry as the judges’ selection, and in 2016 wasn’t.
The Winning Ideas
- 1st Place — Vixster, by Zak Ammar, an MBA candidate from Houston, Texas, with a passion for entrepreneurship who has spent many hours, Entrepreneurship Center director Erich Schlenker told Blowing Rock News, “…trying to figure out how to launch a business that did some good in the world.” PREMISE FOR IDEA: Vixster is a trash and recycling Service Company operating in “The Sharing Economy.” It facilitates a peer-to-peer removal service for commercial and residential customers. “More than 20,000 residents of Watauga County do not have waste and recycling removal services. Most live outside of the city limits, but many others live inside the city limits and require trash pick-ups more frequently than once per week. 60 other rural counties in North Carolina alone have this exact problem. Vixster addresses the rural waste management challenge by linking waste producers with community members willing to remove it for a fee. By using a digital, GPS platform, users can create an account, request an on-demand pickup – pay for it online, and Vixster will match them with a driver in the same vicinity to pick it up. The driver receives 70% of the transaction fee paid out bi-weekly.”
- 2nd Place — Something Green, by Taelor Critcher, a junior Hospitality and
Tourism major from Boone. “She was determined to find a way to combine her passion for event planning with her passion for sustainability,” Schlenker noted to Blowing Rock News. PREMISE FOR IDEA: Every year, 2.5 million people get married in the United States. Result: each year weddings contribute 64 tons of carbon and 400-600 tons of garbage to our national environmental footprint. As our society continually becomes more ‘green’ conscious, it is important to provide consumers with opportunities to make eco-friendly choices. Therefore, Ms. Critcher’s idea is to start a business called, “Something Green: Sustainable Wedding Planning and Event Venue,” which will provide brides with the services and resources they need to reduce the environmental footprint on their wedding day. Critcher’s business goal is to have it act as a pioneer for zero-waste and sustainable events in the High Country. “I plan to build an event barn by using repurposed and recycled materials, installing solar panels, a rainwater harvesting system, a low flow water system, and a compost and recycling system, the goal being to eventually obtain LEED certification. My wedding planning services will assist and teach brides how they can make greener choices in various areas of their wedding. This is not only an opportunity for brides to reduce their footprint, but also an opportunity to educate the community on the importance of making greener, more sustainable choices.”
- 3rd Place — LokUp, by Lauren Chesnet and Curtis Compton, both sophomore Industrial Design majors who became interested in this idea after observing how many students use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. Ms. Chesnet is from Mount Airy, NC and Mr. Compton is from Mooresville, NC. PREMISE FOR IDEA:
Solves the problem of keeping up with bike locks or carrying around “bulky” bike locks hanging off of bike frames. The pair’s idea consists of a retractable mounted bike lock that is directly mounted to the bike. It would be mounted to where a water bottle cage might be, with screws that can only be removed when the bike is unlocked. The cylindrical form consists of injection molded plastic and fits parallel to the bikes frame. Unlike other mountable bike locks that use keys, this one is unlocked by using a combination lock with easy grip dials. “This eliminates the annoyance of having to carry a key around. It contains a 3/8 inch cable (to reduce the chances of it being easily tampered with) that retracts into the main cylindrical form to maintain a sleek aesthetic. Color options could be easily incorporated. This bike lock improves the biking experience, especially of public bikers, because it prevents the chance of forgetting a lock at home or having to figure out a way to carry one around either on their bike or on the rider.”
- Audience Choice Award — Glance, by Kameron Kales and Chris Comrie, senior business majors. “Like many seniors,” Schlenker noted to Blowing Rock News, “Kameron and Chris are spending their final year at Appalachian — looking for a job! They think they have found a way to make that process easier on themselves and everyone else.” PREMISE FOR
IDEA: Glance is a Video Tool for Recruiting. “Why do we still approach the hiring process in the time inefficient way our grandparents did? Glance hosts’ 1-minute videos, pitching individuals to recruiters everywhere, eliminating the last 29 minutes of unnecessary phone interviews. Our research shows recruiters’ 1st impressions about continuing the interview process is right 90% of the time. Time is limited. Glance exposes companies to 30 times the talent in the same time it traditionally takes for one phone interview. Hiring candidates find better jobs through our platform. Why rely on just a resume when you can pitch yourself to companies everywhere with a brief personalized video? Our revenue model is simple. Candidates are free. Companies pay a subscription to access all of the profiles and in return, we streamline their interview process. Only spend time on feasible candidates. Filter and prioritize by your benchmarks to locate your next hire.”
Judging by the description of the Glance business idea, it is a good bet that there were a lot of seniors in the audience going through the often laborious, time consuming job search process!
The other 2016 finalists included:
- AdRenture, by Noah Koch, Senior, Marketing
- Campus Cleaners, by Jake Hartman, Senior, Management
- Dry Thighs, by Mollie Gentry, Freshman, Computer Science
- Gidoa, by Dale Yarborough, Senior, International Business
- NC Downhill, by Bailey Winecoff, Senior, Sustainable Technology
- Project Music, by Jabari Myles, Senior, Computer Information Systems, and Kaitlyn Little, Sophomore, International Business
About Bobby Martin and The Hockey Stick Principles
Bobby Martin is a 1992 graduate of Appalachian State and the founder of The Hockey Stick Principles, a research project to figure out how good ideas become successful firms. He is also president and co-founder of Vertical IQ, a leading provider of sales research insight for banks. Martin also co-founded and served as president of First Research, a leader in sales intelligence.
In 2007, First Research was sold to D&B Corporation. Today Martin is an active angel investor and serves as an active board member with innovative start-ups Local Eye Site, Boardroom Insiders, LifeSite Logics, and etailinsights. He speaks frequently about entrepreneurship at universities such as Georgetown MBA program; University of Colorado at Boulder; Appalachian State; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Council for Entrepreneurial Development; and at corporate events. In 2006, he was a recipient of the Triangle Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” Award in Raleigh.
Before founding First Research with Ingo Winzer in 1998, Martin spent more than six years with Bank of America managing a large commercial banking pool of customers in Wilmington, North Carolina. Martin graduated magna cum laude, earning an economics and banking degree from Appalachian State University, in Boone, North Carolina.