Here at Booth, an interesting and special story is never a scarcity, especially after summer internships. But when I talked to Jesse Taylor, the founder of Verdant Financial Services and a good friend from the trenches of Commercializing Innovation, I was still very shocked by how special his summer internship was in an industry I had only heard about from news and movies—cannabis. This story is also a little bit special as it is about an entrepreneur who hustled into NVC when his proposal was originally denied—the only one of its kind. I have no doubt that his persistence and perseverance will be helpful moving the business forward in this new industry. Here’s Jesse’s story…
When fellow classmate Jamie Rubinstein mentioned their nail salon business to me for the first time, I immediately related back to the painful three-hour wait when my wife would do her nails. I am always amazed by how great pain points like these are being discovered by the ladies in NVC. Last year, we had a similar team in our section who wanted to develop a quick and easy shaving product for women. Without these teams, there is ABSOLUTELY no way I could possibly get to know such problems as a man. So I am always grateful for the different perspectives brought by these talented, female entrepreneurs. Most importantly, it is not just about nails. Let’s hear about it…
In ten years time, I’m likely to forget about the teams who competed in NVC finals with us last year except for one—a team really changed my view about what diversity means at Booth and NVC, and taught me how passion can transform something from normal to extraordinary—a story about a toilet!
I knew Shane Durkin from the very beginning of Booth as we are in the same LEAD cohort and I saw him as a heroic figure—a Navy SEAL member. We discussed entrepreneurship and the trip to New Zealand he was planning back then. But what really surprised me was the business Shane brought to NVC and how great his final presentation was. Don’t be fooled when he casually mentioned his “ability to make the room laugh.” I made the room laugh, too, but I never got to take the second place and $70,000 back home. Their presentation was definitely my favorite among all finalists, including ours 🙂 Let’s hear about what he thinks about that journey now.
Anyone interested in entrepreneurship, startups or getting involved with new business ventures has likely heard of the Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge (NVC). Run by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation here at Booth, NVC is a top-ranked accelerator program in the nation and has graduated over 160 start-up companies still in operation today, including some recognizable names like Braintree, which acquired Venmo and was then later acquired by PayPal in 2013 for $800 million; Bump Technologies, which was acquired by Google in 2013; and GrubHub, which completed an IPO in April 2014.
NVC is truly an incredible program that helps student teams turn ideas into viable businesses. But it takes a lot of hard work and commitment on top of the already demanding commitments of being a Booth student. So I wanted to hear from NVC participants exactly why they wanted to compete in this year’s challenge.
Here’s what they had to say.