Finalists named for business plan competition

Twelve teams of Nevada students have been named finalists for the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup Collegiate Business Plan Competition. The students will compete not only for cash awards, but also for better career opportunities, event organizers say.

The Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, or NCET, on Tuesday named six graduate and six undergraduate teams as Governor’s Cup finalists. The teams are competing for cash prizes totaling close to $200,000. Seven more finalists were selected for the related Lieutenant Governor’s Award.

This year’s finalists were from the University of Nevada, Reno; the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Truckee Meadows State College and Sierra Nevada College.

Governor’s Cup winners will be announced April 22 at an awards dinner at the Atlantis Casino & Spa in Reno. First- and second-place graduate and undergraduate category winners will advance to the Governor’s Cup’s May 18 tristate competition in Las Vegas. The winning Nevada students will take on Arkansas’ and Oklahoma’s top participants.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Award winner will not compete in the tristate awards next month.

Fifty-four teams entered the business plan competition, Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology media director Emily Somerville said. The three winning graduate and undergraduate Governor’s Cup teams will be awarded $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third. The Lieutenant Governor’s Award winner will collect $5,000.

Contrary to popular perception, the Governor’s Cup isn’t designed to propel students to be the next Bill Gates, NCET Chief Executive Officer Dave Archer said. Typically, he said, the winners don’t become entrepreneurs, but instead become valued contributors to existing companies.

"The business plan competition is not designed to help them create businesses, but it makes them better employees," he said. "It is a crash course in becoming a better employee."

Although only a few of the students in the competition later start their own companies, the college participants do usually succeed in the job market, he said. Reno-based company Mariah Power has hired at least one Governor’s Cup competitor each year for the last three years, Archer said.

The Southern Nevada Business Plan Competition, a January business plan event sponsored by the Las Vegas Business Press, played a role in the Governor’s Cup. One of the entries in that contest, Optimal Irrigation Systems from UNLV, was named a Governor’s Cup finalist.

Optimal Irrigation Systems has designed a below-the-surface irrigation system that aims to deliver the optimum amount of water to plants without pumps or external power. The system is designed to offer up to 90 percent savings on water when compared with regular drip-line systems. UNLV graduate students Jake Peterson and Howell Shaw serve as team captain and team member, respectively.

Other UNLV team finalists for the Governor’s Cup included AACSS, which offers data support service for the construction and design industries. Graduate students Paul Schiminsky and Randall Daugherty drafted the business plan for AACSS. Fellow UNLV graduate students Jean Treichel-Bridges and Robert Bateman also reached the Governor’s Cup finals with their Tiki Ice Italian ice business concept.

Contact reporter Valerie Miller at vmiller@lvbusinesspress.com or 702-387-5286.

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