BYOBB Grand Prize winners from 2019
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Institute (IEI) runs some of the most lucrative pitch competitions at a university for early-stage ventures. The largest of these competitions, the annual Be Your Own Boss Bowl® (BYOBB®), took place in late April and saw eight finalist teams take home part of the $120,000 cash prizes.
This year marked the 24th year of this annual competition, which is open to students, alumni, faculty and staff from all 17 schools and colleges across the university. Participants compete in two separate tracks: the undergraduate track (for current undergrad students) and the upper track (for graduate students, alumni, faculty and staff).
This year’s competition started with previous winners discussing how different IEI resources helped them in the competition. The winners for this year came from across Temple, with the grand prize winners being Agora World. Agora World is a software platform that is aiming to bring up engagement in online meetings through worldbuilding.
In January of this year, the IEI was joined by finalists and winners from last year’s competition for an event called “How I Won the Be Your Own Boss Bowl,” moderated by Emily Madara, FOX ’22, co-founder of the Sun & Star Collective, the second-place winner in the undergraduate track at the 2021 BYOBB. Sun + Star Collective creates a dual glasses case that will not only save space but is also made with sustainable and environmentally-friendly materials.
Madara was joined by two finalists from the upper track of last year’s BYOBB who were able to bring different perspectives as alumni and former MBA students. Enoque Panzo, ENG ’11, last year’s Grand Prize winner, is the co-founder of Kiese Technologies. Inspired by his time working in the construction industry, Kiese Technologies is developing technology that is transforming how construction companies manage their business to avoid disconnects in communication.
Nelly Tacheva, MBA ’20, won third place in last year’s competition with her venture Simply Flows. During her time working with nonprofits, she formulated the idea for Simply Flows, a self-service, no-code, secure platform that automates tasks and streamlines processes by connecting applications so clients can boost productivity.
“I knew I could create something to help more than one team or one department with their busy work and manual processing,” said Tacheva.
The Community of BYOBB
A common theme the panelists shared was the importance of networking and working through your business at the BYOBB workshops. Panzo and Tacheva plan to collaborate on their ventures, after forming a bond during the StartupStudio summer accelerator run by the IEI. After learning about each other and their respective ventures, they knew there had to be a way for Kiese and Simply Flows to help make things more efficient for their companies and clients.
Similarly, Madara met her co-founder, Caroline O’Keefe, FOX ’21, through the Entrepreneurial Student Association (ESA), where she had just finished her senior year serving as part of the executive board.
Mentoring helped the founders anticipate problems before they happened and they learned to develop skills in other areas where they had some weaknesses. Tacheva took advantage of the free mentoring offered through IEI to connect with six different mentors. She chose each mentor based on their background and industry knowledge and was able to use those meetings and advice to focus on areas that needed improvement.
Panzo gathered advice from his mentors and they helped remind him of his goals.
“Having those mentorship opportunities keeps you grounded, and it keeps you accountable,” said Panzo.
A safe space
The community and culture of the accelerator program stood out to Madara as well because it felt safe but challenging. As part of the prize package, the panelists had the opportunity to join the 1810 Accelerator to refine their business. For the 1810 Accelerator experience, the panelists highlighted the workshops where there was the most criticism. The workshops gave them honest feedback in a safe space surrounded by fellow budding entrepreneurs, where they could brainstorm how and where to fill in gaps.
“I really liked the collaborative and creative culture of bouncing ideas off of each other,” said Madara.
Tacheva competed and founded Simply Flows by herself, so the rigor of the competition helped her learn to manage time and action items in the entrepreneurship world. Since then, she has focused on building a team of people to help her through internships or collaborations.
The IEI’s director Greg Fegley ended the presentation with tips of his own including the importance of starting your submission early, building a team and taking advantage of the free and knowledgeable mentors found on Temple’s e StartupTree platform.
This year’s BYOBB® competition offered a grand prize package of $60,000 in non-diluted seed funding, plus mentor matching with seasoned entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors. It also offers prizes of over $100,000 of in-kind service packages from regional businesses including accounting practices, law firms, and accelerator programs, like the IEI’s summer Startup Studio.