I rolled into my entrepreneurship capstone yesterday relaxed, expecting a syllabus day and a formal introduction to the course structure. I rolled out of class three hours later and quickly concluded that my last semester at OU will not just be a leisurely stroll down memory lane.
This particular entrepreneurship class is the third course in a three-class series (New Venture Development I, II, III) where teams go from ideation, concept validating, to business plan creation based on their own ideas. I spent NVD I and II with two killer partners, but studying abroad threw me off sequence and in to a different class with unfamiliar people. This is not a course where it feels good to be the new face, and the professor made that clear when setting the tone of the course.
“You should have been warned in December,” he began, “To not show up without a team or a project.” (I humorously wondered which one of my teachers in China failed to deliver that message to me.) “All teams will be competing in this year’s Governor’s Cup.”
Governor’s Cup is a statewide collegiate business plan competition—proof that the state of Oklahoma wants to back young entrepreneurs (and keep them in the state if they can). In the past 10 years, the competition has pushed out $1.7 million dollars in cash, scholarships and fellowships. If you are a college student with an idea, particularly if you are from any of the state’s entrepreneurship or engineering programs, faculty and staff spur students to enter the competition and cut their teeth with business plans. NVD III in the spring semester, I realized, was engineered almost solely for that purpose. And there I sat, without a team or an idea.
I did something like this a year ago. In NVD I, myself along with John Warden and Brent Bowles went up to bat at the Sooner Launch Pad pitch competition and held our own against some of the best around campus, taking 3rd place and $3,000. Then, I knew my team before the competition. This time, I knew the competition before I knew my team. The internal pressure slowly mounted: it was time to meet some new people.
It felt like arriving late to the elementary school dodge ball line up. It doesn’t matter if you have a good throw. If you show up late and all the captains already have teams, the pressure is on you to sell yourself quick or get left out of the game. I landed in an excellent group with interesting people, but I still find myself in need of mental preparation for the on ramp.
This means much more work for me this semester than I anticipated—two capstones and Governor’s Cup, in addition to my other courses. It will result in a few more late nights than I would like, and maybe some stressful weeks.
But when I think about the entrepreneurial process involved and the opportunity to both compete at Governor’s Cup and Tri-State in Las Vegas, I know that I would be bored if I spent my semester any other way. Let the gauntlet begin again, and here’s to building companies and changing the world.
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