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Teams of MBA Students, Including Tulane, Support Entrepreneur Week

March 22, 2013 Media Coverage

Mark Waller, of NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, highlights the roles top University MBA students played during the IDEAcorps Pitch for New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Tulane University’s team worked with eTax Credit Exchange, developing new management methods that the company is already integrating as it expands into additional markets.

Teams of MBA Students, Including Tulane, Support Entrepreneur Week

March 22, 2013 NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune

As teams of entrepreneurs polished their cases for why donors and investors should support their ventures at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, eight of them competing in Friday’s culminating events received behind-the-scenes infusions of energy from master of business administration students from around the country in a program called IDEAcorps. Tulane University and Loyola University sent teams. So did Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, Stanford University, Cornell University and Dartmouth College.

Tim Williamson, the chief executive of The Idea Village, which organizes the week-long business festival, surmised on Friday that the combined consulting value of the students’ services might reach into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, or up to $1 million.

Of the local universities, the Loyola team worked with Webster Pierce, inventor of the Wave Robber coastal restoration device and winner of the $50,000 Greater New Orleans Foundation Water Challenge on Monday. Pierce, whose plastic step structure shears waves and collects sediment, is competing again for another $50,000 at the final contest, the Big Idea on Fulton Street.

The Tulane team worked with eTaxCreditExchange.com, an online marketplace for selling tax credits that initially was inspired by Louisiana’s film tax credits. The exchange is run by husband-and-wife proprietors Peter and Raelynn Loop. They started in 2011 and have sold more than 12 million tax credits. The mechanism lets businesses or individuals cash in the value of their credits instead of spreading the tax savings over years.

The Loops said the Tulane MBA students gathered vast research to help the company advance, introducing management methods they will continue to use. They competed in the Power Pitch contest, for access to investors, on Friday.

“They were so bright and enthusiastic and excited about this business,” Raelynn Loop said of the Tulane boosters. “I think they’ll all be business leaders.”

Tulane student Gustavo Baptista, who is from Brazil, said participating in the event has encouraged him to consider settling in New Orleans after he finishes his MBA.

“In my opinion there’s no other experience that we’ve had before that’s been so aggregating and inspiring,” Baptista said. He said he has started meeting some of the city’s entrepreneurship promoters and collecting feedback for his own business ideas.

“I’m truly considering staying here,” he said, because of “the sheer amount of ideas and things that are happening here.”

Tulane students Heath Gardenhire and David Bode said the practical experience of working with functioning start-ups was invaluable.

“It was a great chance to apply what we’re learning in the classroom to a real-world situation,” Bode said.

The college teams had their own contest, called the IDEAcorps Pitch, presenting the businesses that they consulted to a panel of judges at the start of Friday’s Entrepreneur Week proceedings.

At the closing Big Idea pitch, organizers unveiled a university winner. Unlike the contests throughout the week, where the winners received seed money, in kind business services and trips and meetings with potential investors, the students competed solely for the title. And in the end, two of them tied for the top honor: Stanford and Cornell.