New Venture Development mentors and UNCL team members pose with their prize money at the Ivey Business Plan Competition in Ontario, Canada. From left: David Hinton, Michael Burton, Clayton Woodruff, Peyton Lentz and Sarah Gorfors.
A graduate entrepreneurial team from U of A won first place in Canada’s prestigious Ivey business plan competition, receiving $20,000 for their innovative solution to deter bike theft without bike locks.
UNCL Co., short for Universal Network Controlled Lock, is an app-enabled security device that can be retrofitted to public bike racks, allowing riders to secure and monitor their bikes without having to carry a heavy lock.
UNCL is the third U of A team to win the game, which took place on January 17 of this year. 20-21 at the Morrisett Institute for Entrepreneurship, University of Western Ontario. Previous U of A honorees include Learning DifferentiateED and Picasolar in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
UNCL is derived from the new Entrepreneurial Development course sequence at the Sam Walton School of Business. Sarah Goforth, executive director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said the team was formed when the four co-founders met in an NVD class and recruited by CEO Michael Burton to work on his micromobility security solution. idea.
The other founders are Chris Roderick, Payton Lenz and Clayton Woodruff, all EMBA students.
The NVD is a one-year postgraduate practical business incubation program that allows students to pursue entrepreneurial ideas in a hands-on, team-based environment. These courses make up the Entrepreneurship track of the full-time MBA and Executive MBA programs. Non-business students take these courses by pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship.
“Some students enter the New Entrepreneurship Development Program with an interest in entrepreneurship but no particular idea, while others have an empty concept or an early-stage technology that they are interested in exploring,” said Goforth, who runs the program. And teach the course with David Hinton, Associate Director of Technology Ventures.
“Michael joins a handful of students we’ve worked with over the past few years who came here on day one with a passionate determination to address issues that he experienced first-hand as an avid cyclist,” Goforth said.
“Passion for the problem, shared among a hardworking and talented team of co-founders, is what competition judges — and real-world investors and business partners — are looking for.”
Burton said those experiences at NVD were “vital” to UNCL’s success in Canada.
“NVD forces us to become intimate with the ‘pain’ and empathize with our customers before creating a product,” Burton said. “Novelty and innovation are meaningless if they don’t solve the right problems for the people who have them.”
Burton said UNCL plans to use its funding to complete a digital prototype and gradually develop a minimum viable product.
“Renders are great, but the cash will bring our devices to life,” Burton said.
After developing an initial business model in the fall semester, UNCL applied and was accepted to join the Greenhouse Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP), OEI’s flagship business incubation program. UNCL is the first NVD team accepted into the incubator. UNCL joins four other cycling companies in GORP’s Spring 2023 cohort, as well as another company focused on rock climbing.
Burton said winning in Canada was just “adding fuel to a flame we were already burning.”
About the University of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Office:The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovative and entrepreneurial experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation offers free workshops and programs – including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture placements, competitions and entrepreneurial mentoring. A division of the Sam M. Walton School of Business and the Department of Economic Development, the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation also provides on-demand support to students who want to become innovators in existing organizations and entrepreneurs who are starting something new.