Business
11:36 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Today at UT: The 'Super Bowl' or 'Project Runway' of Business Pitches - Take Your Pick

Rental maternity clothing? Malnutrition-fighting porridge? Dust compressors? Soon, one of these inventions could be part of your daily life.

Beginning today and running through Saturday, the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition will evaluate business concepts from 40 teams around the world. Hosted by McCombs School of Business' Texas Venture Labs, it's the longest-running competition for graduate student entrepreneurs – the "Super Bowl of business plan competitions," as the school describes it in a press release.

To qualify for the competition, teams had to win regional competitions first, with competitors culled from 13 countries including Thailand, Brazil, Germany and Norway. UT's team has invented a product called eyeQ, which according to McCombs School of Business spokesperson Renee Hopkins, uses video-based technology to monitor consumer purchasing behavior. In other words: Stores get information about how their customers shop, and customers will get an Amazon.com-like retail experience in a brick and mortar store.

Other ideas range from medical devices to women's retail and home wares. A team of students from Manitoba, Canada, is touting GeoTop, the "greenest countertop on the market," which is made from 95% recycled materials. (Aren't we all sick of Formica? Apparently: according to the team, the countertop production market is worth $19.3 billion and growing 4.8% annually.)

Winners of the competition will be awarded in "Project Runway"-style grandeur, claiminga $135,000 package designed to facilitate their business plans. That includes Austin Technology Incubator office space, mentoring, and consulting services; a full page ad in Inc., consulting with the McCombs entrepreneurship faculty, and cash.  Wells Fargo is also awarding a "Clean Energy prize" of $10,000 to the best green startups, and according to Hopkins, several of the competitors have entered with their eyes squarely on that prize.