NJIT Management Students Take Third in a National Contest, Defeating Harvard, Yale and Columbia

Team member Quaison Carter, 3rd place winner of the East Coast Venture Challenge

A team of NJIT students took third place in a national contest in which student entrepreneurs competed to see who had the best business idea.  The student teams presented their business plans to a prominent panel of venture capitalists.  The contest, the East Coast Venture Challenge, was held at Columbia University and sponsored by DFJ Gotham, a venture capital firm.   

Eight student teams, culled from 70 semi-finalists -- had five minutes to present their business strategies to the panelists, who also followed up with ten minutes of questions.  The panelists chose the three best teams – NJIT, Duke and Cornell – each of whom had to give additional ten minute presentations about their businesses.  In the end, Cornell took first place and Duke second.

But the third place NJIT team of Quaison Carter, Louis Noto and Paulius Skema, all business management majors – beat teams from Harvard, Yale and Columbia as well as from Johns Hopkins and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Only Cornell won a cash price -- $250,000. 

The contest, though, was about much more than prize money, said Michael Ehrlich, an assistant professor at the School of Management who advised the team and attended the contest.

“To go before a panel of prominent venture capitalists and explain your business as if you were really asking them to invest in your start-up company is fantastic experience for students,” said Ehrlich.  “The panel asked hard questions, which made our team see what it’s like to raise funds for a business. It was invaluable experience for the students, who did better than I even hoped they would.”

Carter, the team leader, gave presentations about "Fetch FIRE,” a business he founded two years ago.  FetchFIRE is a website repository of emergency information that families and others can use to stay in touch with each other during emergencies. The business allows users to post emergency contact information as well as family itineraries on the website's database. During an emergency, the user and others granted access codes can retrieve emergency information by phone. When families subscribe to FetchFIRE, they are given a user name and password to the website, where they enter their itineraries, emergency contacts, emergency procedures or any other information the family wishes to share. They are also given a toll free number to enter the site and a four-digit access code. A subscription to FetchFIRE starts at $9.99 per month.

 “It's a very simple idea,” says Carter, “but it fulfils a need and there is nothing out there like it. Many parents, for instance, don’t want their children to have cell phones but they want them to be reachable at all times.”

It’s not the first time that Carter’s start-up business has won an award. In 2008, FetchFIRE placed second in Newark’s Most Promising Young Entrepreneur Contest.  Carter, who participates in the accelerated BS/MBA program, also recently won the Peter Small Memorial Scholarship at NJIT.  He’s just begun his full-time course load as an MBA candidate in the School of Management.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)