University News

Business Management Majors Win Virtual Alvine Pitch Competition with Drone Company Idea

The global coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop the College of Business from hosting its annual Alvine New Venture Pitch Competition, which enables students of all majors to problem solve, think outside the box, and learn how to pitch their business ideas.

May 1, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

College of Business zoom meeting for Alvine Competition
The College of Business hosted its annual Alvine New Venture Pitch Competition through Zoom.

Brendan Shamas ’23 has been fascinated by drones and their unlimited potential for years. When he was 15 years old, he made a deal with his father that he would do extra yardwork and help around the house in exchange for a drone.

After he got the drone, he wanted to take it to the next level. Through his father, who worked in the construction field, Shamas learned about drones’ capabilities in the industry and decided to become an FAA-certified unmanned pilot. He then started his own business, BES Aerial Imaging.

Brian Esposito ’23 and Brendan Shamas ’23
Brian Esposito ’23 and Brendan Shamas ’23 (right).

A business management major who is part of the University’s fast track program, which will enable him to earn his bachelor’s degree and his MBA in just four years, Shamas recently presented BES Aerial Imaging to judges in the University’s Alvine New Venture Pitch Competition. He and his teammate, Brian Esposito ’23, also a business management major, captured first place. Shamas credits Esposito with helping ensure their success.

“When we came up with this pitch, we made sure it was the best pitch we could possibly deliver,” said Shamas, who, with Esposito, also competed last fall in Charger Startup Weekend, placing in the top three. “I learned that constructive criticism is the key to success because during this competition we were constantly trying to make our presentation virtually invincible.”

Shamas hopes to expand the business and create an efficient and economically friendly way to enable construction businesses to obtain aerial photos and videos that they can use to prevent hazards, analyze jobsites, and advertise. He hopes to eventually establish locations across Connecticut.

‘I was very impressed by the enthusiasm’

Held online for the first time this year because of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Alvine Pitch Competition enabled dozens of students from each of the University’s academic colleges and schools to attend workshops earlier in the semester to develop their ideas and presentations.

“I strongly believe that the program was laid out well and it covered all the necessary material, helped us form a strong pitch, and enabled us to develop a better understanding of our ideas and pitches,” said Shamas. “My professor, Dr. Brian Marks, also helped us along the way with any technological challenges we faced, which helped everyone in the competition.”

During the workshops, students learned about topics such as sales and marketing, supply chains, and finance. After a round of semifinals, six teams competed in the final competition, presenting their ideas to the judges through Zoom. One of the judges was Peter Smerd ’82 MBA, president of Pittsburgh-based Boulevard Building, Inc.

“I was very impressed by the enthusiasm of both the students and the professors involved in the competition,” he said. “Their projects were creative and thoughtfully presented. It was a pleasure to be a judge.”

During their presentations, students pitched a variety of business ideas, one of which included a meal planning app that provides education and information about food options to the diabetic community. They were challenged with identifying the problem they were addressing, their solution, and their clientele.

Jordan Lue ’21 M.A.
Jordan Lue ’21 M.A.
‘It was truly inspiring’

Cliff Emmons ’96, who also served as one of the judges, was impressed by the students’ presentations.

"It was truly inspiring to see the diversity of ideas, innovation, and business models presented by the student-entrepreneurs,” said Emmons, CEO of IIoT-OXYS Inc., a provider of products and services for the industrial internet of things based in Cambridge, MA. “It was a privilege to offer my analysis of their ventures and suggest tips for improvement. I look forward to encouraging them to continue developing their startups, while completing their studies."

One of these ventures was an app called Townview that co-founder Jordan Lue ’21 M.A., a candidate in the University’s graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology, presented. As an undergraduate student-athlete, he traveled across the country to play soccer. Since his schedule could be unpredictable, and he couldn’t always plan what he wanted to do in his free time when visiting a new city, he wanted an app that could tell him what was happening nearby in real time.

When developing the idea, Lue says he and his partner realized most small businesses don’t have an app to reward their loyal customers, like bigger businesses and brands do. They conceived the app to enable small businesses to offer consumers an on-demand connection to their storefront without having to invest in expensive mobile app development.

Lue had expected the competition to be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and he believes some of the greatest lessons he learned from it came from the fact that, as he said, “the show did go on.

“The best part of the competition was the innovation shown by the coordinators,” he said. “This taught me that when you set goals, you should do your best to follow through. I believe this is a lesson everyone can apply to their own ventures.”

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