Ready, set, pitch! Contest to give student entrepreneurs 90 seconds to deliver the perfect elevator pitch

Release Date: April 11, 2014 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It’s a nerve-wracking minute-and-a-half: You’re standing in a room full of aspiring entrepreneurs, you’re presenting an idea for a business to a panel of judges, and you have just 90 seconds to do it.

That’s the type of drama the University at Buffalo’s second annual Elevator Pitch Competition will deliver.

The contest, which takes place April 16, is open to students from across UB.

It’s like ABC’s Shark Tank — only faster. At last year’s competition, the atmosphere was collegial but tense, with competitors practicing rapid-fire talks outside the room before taking the stage. There were meltdowns and mistakes, as well as moments of perfection.

This year, first-place winners will get a cash prize of $1,000.

What: UB Elevator Pitch Competition

Who: Seventy-five student teams have signed up to present. Students can pitch business or other ideas that provide novel solutions to real-world challenges. No notes, slides or other visual aids are allowed.

When: Wednesday, April 16, at 1 p.m. Good visuals: The contest is expected to last about four hours, with back-to-back pitches. Winners will receive giant checks.

Where: Student Union Theatre on UB’s North Campus. The Student Union is building No. 28 in the yellow section of this map:

On-site contact: Hadar Borden, administrative director, UB Undergraduate Academies

Sponsors: UB Entrepreneurship Academy; UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR); and UB School of Management. Prizes are supported by the Bruce Holm Memorial Catalyst Fund.

Why: The pitch competition gives undergraduate and graduate students the chance to generate novel ideas, connect with peers with similar interests, and learn how to pitch to potential investors and supporters.

“The pitch competition is part of a growing effort at UB to promote entrepreneurship, to realize the promise of UB 2020 and to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Western New York,” said Yong Li, PhD, academic director of UB’s Entrepreneurship Academy and an associate professor of operations management and strategy in the UB School of Management.

Video of last year’s contest:

Other UB programs that support business-minded students included:

  • The Entrepreneurship Lab, or eLab. Launched in 2013, this winter session course acts as a startup bootcamp, with students fine-tuning business ideas, engaging with potential customers and sizing up target markets.
  • The Student Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program. Also launched in 2013, this program supports promising eLab teams with $5,000 to $8,000 in seed money. Fellows receive mentorship and access to the Hot Desk, a new program that provides shared space in the UB Technology Incubator. “The eLab and Hot Desk are essential follow-up programs to the pitch contest, to help better prepare our students to start businesses with a good chance for success,” says Robert Genco, PhD, DDS, the UB vice provost who oversees STOR.
  • The UB Entrepreneurship Academy. Launched in 2012, this is one of five Undergraduate Academies that give UB students the chance to learn and live with peers who have similar interests. Members of the Entrepreneurship Academy participate in activities such as the pitch competition, networking events with local business leaders and more.
  • The annual Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition. Now in its 14th year, the contest brings together UB students from science, technology, business and other disciplines to maximize their potential and build viable businesses in Western New York. The team with the best plan wins $25,000 in startup funds, along with in-kind law, accounting, human resources and business services.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school also has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, the Financial Times, Forbes and U.S. News and World Report for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Jacqueline Molik Ghosen
Assistant Dean and Director of Communications
School of Management