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LinkedIn for HS Athletes Wins Business Plan Finals

Recruiting4Me, a social network and database for young athletes seeking to connect with scouting college coaches, took first place in this year’s 10th Annual Pepperdine University Business Plan Competition finals. Accomplished athletes throughout their pre-college and university years, MBA students Annie Macomber and Craig Montgomery (with Annie’s brother John) conceived the “LinkedIn for High School Athletes” to address the pain points they experienced themselves. “Many students want to continue to play sports in college but are unsure of the processes and procedures for recruiting,” they said. “Recruiting4Me addresses these issues by aggregating all the critical information necessary to give students the best chance of finding schools that match both their academic and athletic aspirations.” Macomber and Montgomery proposed a specialized social platform for the college-bound athlete to create a multi-media profile, highlight their accomplishments on the field and in the classroom, and navigate the recruiting process. For college coaches, it will offer a one-stop shop with all the relevant resources to begin to make informed recruiting decisions. Macomber and Montgomery’s first place win for Recruiting4Me earned them $10,000 and the opportunity to represent Pepperdine at California Dreamin’ Investor & Fast Pitch Competition later this spring. At that event, students from top entrepreneur programs vie for $250,000 in prize money and equity investment.

The business plan for Shoebrick earned second place for MBA student Ara Krikorian, a startup consultant, and his wife Nairi Chopurian, a lawyer. The couple demonstrated a modular, stackable, foldable shoebox in which any number can be attached to one another and configured to accommodate one’s closet, floor space under a bed or any available shelving. The Shoebrick organization system sold the judges with its expansive business potential to one day organize not only shoes of various sizes but other things in one’s closet.

MBA students Peter Hwang and Peter Jang took third place with PLADDOW! (plah-DOW), both a mobile app that instantly connects customers to local businesses and an original exclamation you say when you have made a successful transaction using it. The communication platform enables two-way text conversation (data, not SMS) between you and like-businesses in your area competing for “first mover advantage” to win you as a customer. Hwang shared an amusing video to explain the concept, already in beta testing. Second place comes with a $5,000 purse and third place earns $2,500. Rounding out the field of competitors were the adjustable shim for windows and doors Cruzling, by husband-wife team Arianne Cruz and David Cruz with Arianne’s engineer father Dennis Hefling, and online food delivery platform Fresh Porter, catering to small neighborhood restauranteurs and home-cook market, conceived by law school student Marco Garcia. Professor Larry Cox, director of the entrepreneurship program at the Graziadio School, presided over the competition, now in its tenth year. He brought in three accomplished Los Angeles entrepreneurs and investors as judges.

“Very impressive! Everyone did a great job,” commended b-plan judge Steve Lehman, chairman and CEO of Premiere Radio Networks, producers of the radio program Business Rockstars. He cautioned the students that entrepreneurs can become too close to their idea. and that it is critical to venture out of one’s comfort zone, he advised, and have other people who are not family, friends or professors evaluate a business plan on a mentoring basis to give honest feedback. Sharing one of the metrics he and his fellow judges took into consideration, Scott Jarus said they weighed investability – the long-term view of how one’s business will fare over time, which includes such things as the size of risk, amount of capital required, market size and whether the product or service is a one-off.  “If it solves a problem, that’s great,” he said. “But if there is no extension capability then it is hard to see (as an invest) how it will grow beyond what it is today.” Jarus is member of Tech Coast Angels and formerly chairman and CEO of Ironclad Performance Wear. Judge Eric Paul Rose, a Graziadio School professor, Pepperdine alumnus and product development expert, framed his considerations in terms of marketability, technical feasibility and protectability, and spoke about the principle concept-to-cash. “From time you have the idea to the time you are putting money in your pocket, what is that path? An investor will want to know. If you have a very convoluted methodology of concept-to-cash, you are going to have a very difficult time raising money. On the other hand, if you have a quick concept-to-cash, and maybe you don’t actually need much cash, that would be a great approach to have.” The Pepperdine University Business Plan Competition is made possible by the generosity of the Graziadio Family Fund, Burton Morgan Foundation and the Pepperdine School of Law’s Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law. Photos: www.tikkostudios.com