From October 5th through November 30th at the Cove, the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and the MORE Foundation brought the Orange County entrepreneur ecosystem together to participate in the inaugural Fast Forward Business Competition. The competition provided students at UCI and anyone from the local startup community a chance to form a team, develop a business plan using existing non-UCI intellectual property, and pitch to a panel of judges. The grand prize included an opportunity to negotiate a licensing agreement for use of the patent as well as a formed business entity. The judges for the competition included long-time entrepreneurs, executives, investors, and a representative from Nantworks which provided the IP.
The MORE Foundation, the originator of the competition's concept, shared that the goal of Fast Forward is to help teams accelerate their startup's progress forward between a year and eighteen months by addressing the intellectual property and business organization aspect head on. MORE Foundation's core mission involves sponsoring startup competitions in cooperation with universities that bring together students and mentors to help commercialize existing intellectual property. Nantworks provided teams the IP to utilize - their patented augmented reality technology with field use in retail environments. Helping teams to prepare their business plans, the MORE Foundation and the ANTrepreneur Center held workshops over the course of six weeks on topics ranging from creating a team, determining product market fit, prototyping, financial projections, and how to pitch your business. Winning teams receive help from the MORE Foundation and Nantworks to develop the licensing agreement to launch the company quickly.
Regarding the format of the competition, organizers saw an opportunity to develop something more akin to the pace of the startup world. They wanted to focus on how teams work together, rather than vetting ideas from scratch. Also, to present an even playing field, teams had to include at least two students from UCI--with the students presenting the final pitches to the judges. Additionally, the patent was revealed to participants for the first time at the kick-off ceremony. This allowed every participant the same access to the technology so no one team had the advantage of having worked on the concept for longer than other teams. The MORE Foundation was pleased that six teams, each comprised of four to seven entrepreneurs and which all included executives and students, competed to develop a commercialization plan in six weeks. Judges remarked that plans pitched from all six teams were well done and appeared commercially viable.
ZephyR, the winning team, shared the following thoughts about their experience, "As team members, we first met at the Cove and connected around our shared passion for entrepreneurship and the transformative power of technology. During the six weeks of preparation before the final presentations, we stretched every possible entrepreneurial muscle through several workshops. We would like to thank ANTrepreneur Center, UCI Applied Innovation and the MORE Foundation for their continuous support throughout our preparation. We are extremely excited and motivated to pursue this new venture and make it successful. Winning the Fast Forward Competition and having ZephyR assessed and approved by a group of distinguished judges with various backgrounds proves to us that we have the potential to achieve our goals. Soon, we will continue to develop our product while improving the patent portfolio with Nantworks, which will eventually allow us to initiate our conversations with potential customers."
Additional information about the MORE Foundation can be found at www.MORE.foundation.
Hai contributes to the Cove as a content writer for both the Currents newsletter and blog. As an alumnus of UCI with a degree in English and a co-founder of a local creative agency, Hai's focus is centered on spotlighting events, stories, and startups within the Orange County community. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and has participated in fast-pitch competitions through the UCI Antrepreneur Center and has co-organized local business and startup groups such as 1 Million Cups and Orange County Young Entrepreneurs.