November 21, 2013

2013 Biz Pitch winners
Luis Davila '03 presented Business Pitch Competition winners Zach Crowley '16 and Tony Tomashefski '15 with a $1,500 check.

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By Heather Johns

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Five was the magic number for the 2013 SBDC Business Pitch Competition at Bucknell University.

On Nov. 18, five Bucknell alumni judges evaluated five-minute pitches from five team finalists. But there could only be one winner.

That honor went to ScheduleFast, a software resource pitched by Tony Tomashefski '15 and Zach Crowley '16 that allows students to create academic schedules and purchase books.

Quinn McCarthy '14, Don Lioi '14, Galen Spencer-Linzie '15 and Matthew Monahon '14 took second place with 6th Sense Technologies, sensors and software that monitors exercise and progress.

SparkSpread Capital, the third-place finalist pitched by Winnie Warner '14, is a risk management and financing firm that helps clean energy projects get off the ground. || For more on the competition, search Twitter for #BizPitch13.

Tomashefski and Crowley's product was inspired by a desire to streamline the academic scheduling process. "Course registration can be a huge drag," said Crowley. "But ScheduleFast makes it a lot easier and faster."

"While the judges were duly impressed by Tony and Zach's professional pitch, innovative idea and enthusiasm, what really blew them away was the number 57," said Steven Stumbris, director of the Bucknell Small Business Development Center (SBDC). "That's the percentage of Bucknell students that already use ScheduleFast."

That may have sealed the deal for ScheduleFast — "The fact that we had an actual service gaining significant usage on campus differentiated us from some other pitches that were not yet tangible," said Crowley — but there is more to crafting a winning pitch.

Entrepreneurial spirit 
The SBDC draws from Bucknell's large pool of alumni entrepreneurs to find its Business Pitch judges. For this year's competition, judges were Charles Boldt '72, John Morris '78, Michael Toole '83, Katie Masich '01 and Luis Davila '03.

"As a Bucknell alumnus who has started my own business, it was a great experience to relate with student entrepreneurs and judge the Business Pitch Competition," said Davila, co-founder and partner of Liquid Claims. "I was really impressed by the innovative ideas of all the finalists, and the professionalism and maturity with which each group presented."

Being able to interact with the alumni judges — and get some of their hard-won advice — was a highlight for the students.

"I think the best advice the alumni judges gave was that, regardless of what happens, you just need to keep going with your idea," said Tomashefski.

That alumni support doesn't end when the winners are picked, said Davila: "I look forward to helping to nurture and support this entrepreneurial program for years to come."

What's next
Tomashefski and Crowley said they will put the $1,500 prize money to good use. "Development costs for an app are pretty high," explained Tomashefski. "I'm writing the Android version of the app on my own to save costs. The prize money will most likely be used to expedite the creation of an iOS version."

ScheduleFast also won a spot in Bucknell's Entrepreneurs Incubator, and an opportunity to make a splash on the national stage by competing in Student Startup Madness.

But before ScheduleFast hits the big-time, Tomashefski has some advice for students planning on entering next year's Business Pitch Competition. || See related video

"Practice a lot," said Tomashefski. "Zach and I practiced about 25 times before the pitch. It gets to the point where you don't even need to think, and saying your pitch just becomes a mechanical routine. That's when you know you're ready."