Ybor’s LiveArt Laboratories wins first place in 8th Fintech Business Plan Competition
A space for artists and tech geeks alike to create something new is the latest winner of the Fintech Business Plan Competition.
LiveArt Laboratories in Ybor City took home the top prize in the competition, winning $15,000 and space in the USF Student Innovation Incubator. Tembo Education Group, the runner-up, went on to compete at - and win - the Florida Venture Forum student competition.
The LiveArt Laboratories presentation by USF art student and LiveArt Chief Art Director Alana Karma impressed the judging panel with its number-intensive business plan and up-and-running setup. Competing companies had to be organized as a legal entity in the State of Florida, with a current USF student from any major or level as at least one member of the ownership group.
LiveArt Laboratories' business plan revolves around a membership model - artists, techies, and other innovators pay to have access to equipment and studio space, social events, and classes held at the facility. Prices range from a one-year full maker membership at $700 per year to a six-month student membership for $250 or a limited social membership for $150 per six months.
Karma said she wasn't sure she was even going to get past the paper application section
of the competition because it was so detailed and intensive, but said she hoped that
the judges would see her passion for the project. She said LiveArt Laboratories plans
to use the money to buy more equipment and offer more opportunities for skilled people
in the community.
"The passion and the vision behind what we're trying to do is so profound, and it influences every age group and range of skill," she said. "I really believed deep in my heart that the judges would see what we're inspired by."
Second and third place recognition went to Tembo Education Group and Tampa Bay Holster Co., respectively. Tembo Education Group, a finalist for the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative Hult Prize of $1 million, aims to revolutionize education in Africa by allowing parents to receive homeschooling lesson plans through text message. Tampa Bay Holster Co. makes custom Kydex plastic holsters for guns in order to increase safety and make the holsters more durable and effective.
Fintech CEO Scott Riley said the judging panel had a tough time deciding between first and second places - with the decision coming down to a startup serving the local community and a startup doing big things worldwide.
"Every year we do this competition, the presentations get better and better," he said.
Tembo, a company that includes recent USF MBA graduate Eric Biel, beat nine other
student teams to win the Florida Venture Forum competition.
Michael Fountain, director of the USF Center for Entrepreneurship, said the Fintech competition has been so successful over the years because it takes students' passion for business and focuses it into the specific goal of a business plan.
"What it really does is gives them a format to vet their ideas in a friendly environment and to get feedback from professionals and funding sources," he said. "It tells them, 'Here's a way to improve your pitch, to improve your business.' "
Made possible by a donation from Fintech, the leading automatic electronic system that alcohol vendors and retailers use to pay bills, the competition allows students to hone their business plans as well as have a chance to finance their ventures. The Center for Entrepreneurship is a nationally ranked, interdisciplinary center, and is part of the USF Muma College of Business, in collaboration with the USF College of Engineering, the Morsani College of Medicine, and the Patel College of Global Sustainability.