Sitting in an Ivey conference room this weekend, for the final judges' deliberation over who would win the IBK Ivey Business plan competition, I was struck by the passion of the private equity people in Canada. Peter Frisella of Tech Capital was smart, Deryk Smith of Edgestone was open and Albert Behr was his usual punchy self and had his son along too. The IBK family team was there, son Michael White is curious and Matt Hall from Covington gave his piercing assessment. Jason Zan from Rogers was in the same MBA year as Spin Master's Anton Rabie who spoke the previous evening.
I joked that there should be a prize for best judge too. We talk about about how that elusive concept of passion makes a person get through the bad stretches of business and push to the finals, but these private equity experts were top of class.
We went over the merits of each of the three finalist plans. Which one would earn back money? How much potential money was also the big sticking point as one was a medical device put forward by a group of superb engineers and if this went through FDA approval, would be a great revenue spinner. The other was a software web application which could get sold quickly, but for $5M to $7M, waaaaaay less than a medical device. This company and was already making $25,000 a month in revenues and many judges expressed concern that it was an easy-to-replicate widget. The presenters were also engineers - memo to my two sons, please study your math and science.
We went around the table and listened to the one expert medical investor and then we voted. It was very close but what tipped it?
The quality of the presentation and PowerPoint.
The two lead products were very different. Both could push forward and do well but only one could get the cash that day. When we added in the quality of presentation, the widget won.
I spoke to both groups afterwards and was impressed with the integrity - too often these business plan competitions attract scammers looking to get some quick money. Seriously. Althought not in this category, many of the presenters were also presenting at other competitions, like TIE. They make a business of entering business plans which I guess is a good way to get seed cash. So it is good to see that the real entrepreneurs who have that passion get the dough.
As for the private equity judges at the IBK Ivey Business Plan event, these are all seriously good people with entrepreneurism running through their veins. It's was a great weekend for Canada.
Well done to the student organizers: Navtej Sidhu and Karamdeep Nijjar. Karamdeep is going to be working with iNovia Capital and Navtej is currently job hunting. I would recommend them highly as they were professional, warm and absolutely in control of the whole schedule of the conference. Quite the roll-out! You can reach them at Ivey Business School.