Irvine Valley College entrepreneurship department challenges students to pitch products and services

Irvine Valley College’s entrepreneurship program recently held a “Shark Tank”-style competition that challenged students to pitch marketable products and services.

John Russo, the department’s faculty lead, recruited aspiring entrepreneurs from across the campus for the inaugural Idea Pitch Competition, which was co-hosted by the California Community Colleges’ Doing What Matters initiative on May 1.

Students and contest judges

Cody David of Northwood High School (second from right) took first place in the Idea Pitch Competition hosted by Irvine Valley College and the California Community Colleges’ Doing What Matters initiative.

Participants submitted 60-second videos to explain their ideas. The top 10 were then selected to pitch live in front of a panel of judges — and an audience of administrators, faculty, business partners, friends and family.

“This was a great opportunity to showcase the entrepreneurial mindset that so many people have no matter what their career or area of study,” Russo said.

Underscoring that point, the 10 finalists included students majoring in engineering, game design, East Asian studies, public policy, entrepreneurship and business. There were also a pair of students from IVC’s partner high schools in the Irvine and Tustin unified school districts. Both are jointly enrolled in IVC entrepreneurship classes.

Each finalist gave a three-minute presentation to outline a problem impacting society, explain how their product or service works, and sell its market potential. Judges offered feedback on both the concepts and the skills of each presenter.

“At IVC, we want to encourage all types of innovation and creative thinking,” Irvine Valley College President Dr. Glenn R. Roquemore said. “This Idea and Pitch Competition encouraged our entrepreneurial-minded students to take their ideas to the next level.”

The top prize of $1,000 went to Cody David, an IVC entrepreneurship student from Irvine’s Northwood High School who pitched a SweatStopper product to help gamers better grip their handheld devices. Ivan Castillo took second place for LookBook, a fashion clothing shopping app, and third place was awarded to Beckman High School’s Diego Lopez for his College GPS app, which would help students better navigate college campuses.

According to the website, the entrepreneurship program at IVC offers courses on how to establish startups, promote innovation, define success, commercialize research and develop nonprofits. Students are also encouraged to combine their entrepreneurship education with other disciplines such as management, marketing or real estate.

Judges for the May 1 competition included angel investors and venture capitalists, as well as business owners and academic administrators, including IVC Vice President of Instruction Dr. Christopher McDonald.