Groups to submit self-sustainable business, technical proposals

Nikolas Baksh

Two graduate engineering students, Timothy Montalbano and Ronald Warzoha, are taking an alternative approach to Villanova’s mantra of service.

The two are organizing the Villanova Social Entrepreneurship Competition, an annual competition which will take place for the first time this academic year.

The competition is open to any student who wants to participate, and its goal is to prepare and submit a self-sustainable technical, policy or business proposal that will improve the quality of life for people living below the poverty line.

The proposal can be directed at the problems of communities anywhere in the world.

In order to compete, students must form groups that include at least one current Villanova University student.

The groups must be two to eight people in size and at least two different majors must be represented in the group. This is to encourage students from all disciplines of study to participate.

“We didn’t want to make a competition just for business majors,” Montalbano said. “We wanted to make it open to the whole community and we are hoping that students from different majors will synthesize their talents to create an effective solution to whatever problem they decide to tackle.”

There are four categories in the competition which tailor to different areas of study: healthcare, education, energy and sustenance and community initiatives.

“We did not create the subcategories to limit students, but to help point them in a direction,” Warzoha said. “We are keeping the possibilities very open.”

The inspiration for the Villanova Social Entrepreneurship Competition came from Montalbano and Warzoha’s participation in the MIT Clean Energy Prize.

The Clean Energy Prize event is a nationwide competition for students and businesses to submit a proposal for more efficient, green energy.

They noticed that two MIT teams had a distinct advantage in terms of their entrepreneurial ability and wanted to provide an opportunity for students to develop their entrepreneurial skills while at Villanova.

Their competition is modeled off of MIT’s student run 100K Business Plan Competition.

The 100K competition has been an annual event at MIT for the past 20 years.

It is open to graduate and undergraduate students at MIT and features business ideas and proposals engineered by students and faculty.

In its first year, 54 teams competed and the winner received $10,000.

Since then, it has grown into the $100,000 competition that it is today.

One hundred and twenty companies have been started by participants in the competition.

Combined, they have created over 2,500 jobs and have a market cap of $10 billion.

Montalbano and Warzoha hope that the Villanova University competition will have similar success.

They did not want to simply replicate MIT’s competition, they wanted to create something distinctive for the University.

They knew students flocking to go on service break trips and, aware of how important social justice was to the community, wanted to provide a more long-term opportunity for service.

This separates the Villanova Social Entrepreneurship Competition from other business competitions and makes it unique to Villanova University.

“We want to make the competition a unique opportunity for service and we hope that some people see their proposals as a possible future career,” Montalbano said. “We want the competition to be a way to help enterprising students out of normal 9-to-5 jobs. Their proposals could be something that they do for years after.”

To present a proposal, groups must submit an abstract by Nov. 19.

A completed proposal will then be due early in the spring semester.

From these final proposals a certain number will be chosen for presentation. Those chosen groups will be asked to present their proposals before a panel of judges on April 10, 2010.

The panel will include faculty members and representatives from the industry.

A winner and runners-up will be selected from the presented proposals.

The two founders have collected $15,000 worth of grant money to date.

The winning group will get at least $10,000 to implement their proposal.

Montalbano and Warzoha are working with members from three student groups, Business Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders and the Villanova Entrepreneurial Society, to collaborate with the winners to put their proposal into action.

The student body will also be tasked with continuing the competition in future years.

For more information, students can attend the information session scheduled for Oct. 22 in Tolentine 215 from 6-7 p.m.