Mason’s Future Entrepreneurs Compete for Cash Prize

Posted: December 7, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Rey Banks

Teams take on a weekly task related to running a business and compete to see who does a better job. Successful CEOs critique their performance and evaluate their skills as they relate to the real world. One team wins a fabulous prize. Sound familiar?

It’s not “The Apprentice,” but it’s close. This past semester, George Mason, together with a few highly successful area CEOs, offered Geeks to Gazillionaires, a course that combined a semester’s worth of marketing, entrepreneurship, finance and organizational planning. The course culminated on Monday, Dec. 5, when students on the team having the best business plan won a cash prize of $5,000.

Student winners of
From left, Shachi Agarwal, Yung Kim, and Scott McKeen walked away from their class not quite gazillionaires, but $5,000 richer.
Photo Courtesy Ken Santucci

The winning team members and their disciplines are Shachi Agarwal, information systems; Scott McKeen, business administration; and Yung Kim, telecommunications. Their project was called Registry 123, an online wedding and gift registry linked to a wide range of affiliated merchandisers. The revenue model was based on collecting commissions from the affilates. The other four teams presented business plans for IT security consulting; an online social networking service; an innovation to prevent rust rings; and high-tech golf innovations.

A collaboration between Mason’s Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E) and the School of Management, the course was the brainchild of and taught by Skip West, MAXSA Innovations president; George Newstrom, former secretary of technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia; Sudhakar Shenoy, IMC Corporation CEO and a member of Mason’s Board of Visitors; and Suresh Shenoy, executive vice president of IMC Corporation.

“This course epitomizes the unique way George Mason tries to prepare our students for the real world. It really showcases the strengths and flexibility of our programs and our exceptional relationships with the local business community,” says Lloyd Griffiths, dean of IT&E. “I know the experience has been highly enjoyable for our business partners and for the students.”

Richard Klimoski, dean of the School of Management, says, “This course clearly shows students the benefits of our interdisciplinary approach to teaching at George Mason, especially when it comes to learning about the critical success factors associated with new business creation. Students not only learn to attend to innovative and emerging technology, but they come to understand the need for building a strong business case for the technology.”

The prize money, while a unique incentive, was not the most valuable benefit students received from the course. They also acquired the know-how to get a business idea up and running and had the rare opportunity to interact with and learn from already successful business owners.

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