A McGuire Entrepreneurship Program new venture team will compete April 21-22 in the TCU Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Competition, which has a grand prize of $25,000 in cash and $100,000 in-kind. The McGuire Program team, Specteros, specializes in customizable indoor horticulture solutions for sustainability and growth.
“I’m really excited,” said Specteros team member Jonathan Besquin (Marketing and Entrepreneurship, ’17). “Getting accepted meant we were one step closer to a possible $25,000, which would greatly impact our ability to make our first prototype. This is going to be our first business competition and we’re looking forward to this great opportunity and experience.”
The competition, presented by the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at Texas Christian University, provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to pitch plans for businesses that also benefit the environment, the community or a specific population. Specteros has both an environmentally and socially conscious mission. By using high-tech tailored LED lighting spectrums for improved controlled-environment food production, the startup integrates technology into crop production to make the food system more sustainable and affordable to the masses.
Specteros applied for the competition because it was looking for experience in telling its story and practicing for future pitches in front of investors. Team member Edward LaVilla (Optical Engineering, ’18) said that getting accepted to participate in the Values and Ventures Competition was a humbling experience.
“I feel a strong sense of encouragement that we are telling our story well enough, that the story is connecting, and better yet, that people can get behind it and believe in it,” he said.
Students in the yearlong McGuire Entrepreneurship Program are engaged in the hands-on process of taking an innovation from an early-stage idea to launch-ready venture. An offering of the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, the McGuire Program is open to undergraduate and graduate students from all fields of study. In fact, program students often benefit from collaborating with peers with different background and expertise, and Specteros is a great example of the advantages of a cross-disciplinary team.
“As an engineer, I applied to the McGuire Program because it allowed me to use my expertise to bring an idea I am passionate about to life,” said Specteros team member Cory Owan (Electrical and Computer Engineering, ’18). “The crossover between the technical and business realms caught my eye, and I knew when applying for the McGuire Program that I would be surrounded by others who would support me in my development endeavors and dreams.”
While Owan, Besquin, LaVilla, and John-Michael Stilb (Marketing and Entrepreneurship, ’17) found themselves in the McGuire Program for slightly different reasons – LaVilla and Owan were interested in learning how to apply their technical skills to a startup, while Besquin and Stilb wanted hands-on experience in starting a business – they found in each other complementary teammates.
“I applied for the McGuire program because I wanted to meet a group of likeminded individuals with a similar entrepreneurial spirit,” said Stilb. “I have never seen myself walking the conventional path and wanted to surround myself with people who felt the same. Developing my skills in all facets of business, expanding my education into more hands-on activities, and launching a real venture were all my motivation for applying to the McGuire Program.”
As part of the program, the team engaged in weekly meetings with Dan Janes, an experienced and successful tech entrepreneur, and McGuire Program mentor in residence. This hands-on guidance has been key to the team’s success, said LaVilla.
“The program has been incredible in its support of our venture from Day 1,” he said. “Not only is the education and structure set up to give us the tools we need to form a venture, but our mentorship is world class. Dan has been instrumental in our development and without his guidance I don’t think we’d be in the position we are today. On top of this, the McGuire Program extends fantastic monetary support for prototype design all the way to travel for these competitions. We are a part of a top-caliber program that puts students first, making our experience here one-of-a-kind.”
The McGuire Program uses the process of creating a new venture to help students develop an entrepreneurial mindset that they can use in any career path. However, Specteros is serious about its new venture and is planning to launch in 2018.
“After finishing the McGuire Program, I plan to work full-time on our venture,” said Stilb. “We all feel confident that we have a viable and exciting business opportunity and I desire to see this through."