Ever wonder whether an idea could be the revolution of a certain product or service but never before put that idea into action?

In keeping with its mission of fostering pioneering mindsets throughout the university population, the student-run Society for Entrepreneurial Advancement is seeking enterprising students with those kinds of ideas to compete in its first-ever Elevator Pitch Competition.

“It can be anything—any way you can compete in the market,” explained Abhishek Bajpayee, 20-year-old mechanical engineering senior and SEA president. “Anybody interested should apply, because you don’t lose anything. You just have to speak for 60 seconds and you could win the competition.”

And the competition’s premise is basically that simple. Contestants will relay a 60-second pitch—as the pitch should last no longer than the average elevator ride—explaining a proposed business venture to a panel of judges that will follow up with a two-minute question-and-answer session. Both the audience and judging panel will vote upon a favorite, and the winners of each vote—who could also be the same contestant—will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

“These are real people who have business ideas,” continued Bajpayee. “They can compete and be put in touch with actual venture capitalists and investors, and the winner can eventually get their business plan financed.”

The winners will be introduced to those behind the judging panel, a line-up of businesspeople, scholars and venture capitalists who can lead the contestants in the right direction to realize their idea. Confirmed judge John Hawthorne—the Boston-based founder and CEO of MassChallenge, the world’s largest start-up competition—even gained his first boost after winning a start-up competition during his days at MIT.

The competition will also gain contestants introduction into an “entrepreneurial ecosystem,” explained Bajpayee, which is a field term for a group of companies or like-minded individuals that help each other out—a deal that includes paying their successes forward to help young start-ups like college students. Networking would be a more general term.

“Networking, we think, is very important,” Bajpayee said. “Yes, hard work and skill and ideas matter a lot—you can be successful regardless—but if you also know the right people at the same time, then you can be more successful and more productive.”

Founded in early 2010 and affiliated with the Colleges of Business and Engineering, Bajpayee said SEA aims to instill the entrepreneurial mindset among the UL Lafayette community by providing the resources and support critical to enterprising while enhancing its members leadership, communication and presentation skills. Over the past year, the organization hosted several open lectures featuring seasoned entrepreneurs, including CNC Technologies President Thomas Chance of Lafayette; former LITE (Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise) CEO Henry Florsheim; and investment firm founder and CEO Marty McVey of Houston, who also serves on President Obama’s National Advisory Board.

“But what’s interesting,” Bajpayee noted, “is all of these speakers had different experiences. It’s not that there’s one textbook entrepreneurial mindset that you have in order to be a successful businessperson.”

Some things are common though.

“There’s a very open mind toward learning new things…because we believe knowledge is something you can never have enough of,” he continued. “Yes, it’s boring maybe. But hard work and determination is important, because if you’re not determined, you don’t have the drive.”

It’s this kind of mindset that’s common among the group, a drive Bajpayee said they hope to instill among a community of university students that could always be doing more.

“Basically, we’re a group of people that don’t like what’s going on,” the SEA president explained. “We’re never satisfied with what’s happening right now. It would be nice if we could run everything, but it’s hard to find 40 hours in a day.”

SEA’s Elevator Pitch Competition will be held March 1 at Lafayette’s LITE Center on Cajundome Boulevard. Apply free of charge at ulsea.org by Feb. 20.

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