Willumstad wings it with virtual biz-plan competition

Check mates: Robert B. Willumstad School of Business Dean Rajib Sanya presents 2019 winner Chitralekha (Pooja) Kar with her first-place spoils.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

It’s innovation squared at the Willumstad School of Business, where a business-plan competition rewarding inventiveness has performed a pandemic pivot.

Student entrepreneurs from across the multifaceted Adelphi University campus will still have a chance to strut their stuff in the Willumstad School’s annual “Shark Tank”-like competition, but with the Garden City campus closed by the coronavirus, the final round of the 2020 contest will be virtual – a Zoom-hosted pitch-a-thon slated to kick off at 9 a.m. April 30.

Five finalists are scheduled to compete for a total of $11,000 in cash prizes, ranging from a $5,000 first-place award to a $1,000 score for the best two-minute “elevator pitch,” with a videoconference of judges – including Adelphi University Center for Innovation Director Graziela Fusaro and a host of regional tech execs – making the call.

The spoils are modest. But by innovating its annual contest on the fly, Adelphi both proves itself a major-league educator with topflight technological chops and reaffirms its dedication to students, according to Willumstad School Dean Rajib Sanyal.

Rajib Sanyal: Adelphi delivers.

“Adelphi’s vow to provide its students a well-rounded education remains unwavering in these disruptive times,” Sanyal noted. “As with teaching and learning occurring remotely, so is the hosting of our annual business plan competition, an event that draws on and rewards the creative zeal of our students.”

Whittled from pre-pandemic applications from across Adelphi’s diverse campus, the five finalists are themselves an assorted bunch, including an MBA candidate, a student pursuing dual degrees in entrepreneurship and filmmaking and another from the Adelphi University International program.

And their pitches are, accordingly, all over the map: a digital “roommate exchange,” an automatic “fire hazard control system,” an online marketplace for service providers and other cutting-edge concepts.

Vietnamese graduate student Duc Le, the AUI competitor pitching the roommate-exchange service, called the campus-wide competition “nothing short of eye-opening,” noting the months-long entrepreneurial effort – Adelphi students were required to submit preliminary proposals back in November – “encouraged me to consider the good, the bad and the ugly of setting up a business.”

“Ultimately, all three contribute to the beauty of entrepreneurship,” Le added. “Bringing your vision to life can be very rewarding.”

That’s exactly the kind of experience competition organizers want student entrepreneurs to have, according to Sanyal, whether in person, online, at the height of a global pandemic or otherwise.

The dean, in fact, went full postal in his description of Adelphi’s dedication to such causes.

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night – and surely not the coronavirus – can stay our faculty, staff and alumni from the swift fulfilment of their commitment to student success,” Sanyal said.