Firefighting technology wins SNC business pitch competition

Zoe Tuttle, Managing Editor

Nine business students competed for cash prizes totaling $850 on Feb. 28 at the Jim and Jan Steinmann Pitch Competition. Students had three minutes to pitch their business ideas to a panel of expert judges.

The winners of the Jim and Jan Steinmann Pitch Competition include:

First place: Fire Fly – Luka Gobec and Vilde Johansen – $500

FireFly is a B2G service model drone that drops C02 bombs on wildfires, taking away one of the fire’s three elements of life: Oxygen. The drones work remotely, allowing firefighters to stay safe in dangerous conditions.

Second place: Wallbreaker – Austin Thomas – $250

A coworking space with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and event hosting.

Third place: Buber – Zach Krahnke – $100

It’s Uber, for boats.

The other pitches included:

Business Card Innovation – Reilly Whittaker and Kacey Carolan

Community Brew – Phealan Robinson

Incline Wash and Detail – Owen Greene

Manufacturing Graphene – James Kohagan

North Lake Tahoe Music Series – Harris Bedford

Pentagon Properties – Tyler Rayman

Students presented to three judges. The judges included:

Jim Steinmann, of Steinmann Facility Development Consultants; Frank Spees, of Spees and Spees Estate and Financial Planning Attorneys; Jay Johnson, Visiting Lecturer at SNC and CEO of Imprimis Consulting; and Achille M. Bigliardi III, who has invested in many ventures including Thrive Café.

Students had three minutes to pitch their competition to the judges, followed by a five-minute question period from the judges. Students have been working with faculty and community mentors to perfect their pitches, making sure they have a strategy, product development, marketing, financial, and the oral presentation.

The business plan competition series is a cornerstone of our commitment to SNC students’ professional preparedness and entrepreneurial thinking.

“Knowledge sitting on the shelf does not mean anything,” said Luka Gobec. “We are trying to enhance our business skills by challenging ourselves and by competing with us, more so than with other students. You have to use the skill over and over again in order to master it. This is a perfect way to do that. With the experienced judges we had, there was no space for slacking or doing anything at 50 percent.”

For second-place winner Austin Thomas, this pitch competition was a dream opportunity.

“I’d been planning on participating in the pitch competition since I first heard about it last semester, but I was also lucky to have Mr. Abravanel in class this semester, who pushed all of the students in the class to participate; so, it went from being a solely extracurricular project to being homework as well,” Thomas said.

Thomas’s idea is Wallbreaker, a co-working space with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and event planning.

“Coming up with a solid idea was probably the hardest part. My idea started as a coffeeshop/taproom, evolved into a co-working space, then evolved again into a business event/co-working space service,” said Thomas.

“Sometimes it took a lot out of me to keep pivoting mid-idea, but you’ve got to be willing to change things up along the way if you want to come up with something that will work.”

This is the second part of a business plan competition put on every year by the business department at SNC Tahoe.

In September, students pitch an idea to a panel of judges during the Innovative Idea Competition. With the feedback they receive, the work with mentors and faculty members to develop business proposition for the pitch competition.

The pitch competition takes place every February, allowing students to hone their ideas.

Those who participated in the pitch competition are then invited to the business plan competition in April, where they must deliver an entire business plan to a panel of judges. Students who participate in the Jim and Jan Steinmann President’s Cup Business Plan Competition are eligible for up to $6,000 in prizes.

Thomas loved the process, despite his nerves.

“Competing in the pitch competition was a terrifying but terrific experience,” he said. “It was my first time pitching and I was incredibly nervous going into it, but the whole process was exhilarating.”

“You’re going to have to pitch at some point, whether its pitching a venture to investors, interviewing for a job, or standing up in front of a board giving a presentation. So, I’m really glad that I fought the nerves and participated, and I’m definitely planning on participating in the business plan competition coming up,” said Thomas.

The Jim and Jan Steinmann President’s Cup Business Plan Competition will be held on April 23, in TCES 139/141 on SNC’s campus.