By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
One thing is perfectly clear about the executive summary for an entrepreneurial business plan: It had better be perfectly clear to potential investors.
"If they don't understand what you're doing in the first two paragraphs, they'll toss it in the trash," said Jesse Randall, a venture associate with Scottsdale-based Tallwave, who spoke to more than a dozen students at Thursday evening's meeting of IDEA (Innovation, Development & Entrepreneurship Association) on campus.
"You need to have a way to articulate your business plan in 25 words -- what you do, and for whom," Randall said. "That's the first paragraph. The second paragraph articulates the opportunity, and you should have sections on your team, customer acquisition, your financial model and your competition."
Randall and Donna Kent, a senior vice president of venture management for Tallwave, were invited by GCU Assistant Professor Tim Kelley to offer pointers to students in advance of the Feb. 1 deadline for two-page executive summaries for the second annual Canyon Challenge. From those summaries, five finalists will be chosen to present full business proposals to a panel of judges and an audience on March 14 at Ethington Theatre.
Last year's Challenge received 46 executive summaries. The grand-prize winner of the competition was The Fan Post, a sports-memorabilia company. First place this year will receive $7,000, with smaller cash prizes for second and third places. Kelley said he expects as many as 70 entries this year.
Tallwave, less than four years old, is a "venture accelerator," according to Kent.
"The reason we exist is to make small businesses matter," she said.
Randall, who has a background in finance and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, said he took second place in a recent entrepreneurial competition at Thunderbird.
He arrived on campus well-prepared, distributing an 11-page handout called a "business blueprint" that provided tools in a modular style for devising a business plan.
"It's a framework to understand your own thinking," Randall explained. "If you can't communicate what your business is, it's going to be hard to get people to come on board with you."
Advised Kent: "Get to the essence of why you exist and how you have an opportunity to change the world. When you get to those things, you move the needle."
Completing the blueprint should take about two to three hours, Randall said, and Kelley said he would post it as a resource on the IDEA website.
"This is a brilliant structure," Kelley said.
Kent said Tallwave comes alongside small companies, walking them through the essentials needed for growth. She noted that a recent Kauffman Foundation study touted Arizona's favorability for business start-ups.
"We want Arizona to be known as the Entrepreneur State," she said.
For more about the Canyon Challenge, email Kelley at [email protected] or visit the IDEA website.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].