Titin

Pitching under pressure at the business plan Super Bowl

April 16, 2011: 1:43 PM ET

By Anne VanderMey, reporter

The Rice Business Plan Competition has a reputation for being a pressure cooker. The nation's largest and richest, it's generally referred to as the Super Bowl of MBA contests. With more than a million dollars in prizes, the winning teams should have the funding to launch their businesses and a chance to quit their day jobs.

Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University

Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University

The pressure is especially great for teams like Titin. The Titin founder, Patrick Whaley, has put thousands of his own dollars into the team's product, a weighted exercise shirt (already being sold in the Dominican Republic). He built the first prototype on his grandmother's sewing machine.

He's at the competition looking for funding, advice, and a little validation from the judges here, who have told him that he has a narrow window of opportunity to get the product off the ground before companies like Under Armour (UA) develop a knock-off and make him irrelevant.

At 6 a.m. the Titin team made their way to a tiny room on the fourth floor of Rice's library. They ran through their pitch presentation for hours, tweaking each PowerPoint slide. When they left the room, at around 10 a.m., the presentation wasn't perfect. They spent time dressing Steve, the mannequin wearing the prototype, and talking about anything but the competition.

Their presentation was strong (better than their last practice round). And the team ultimately won over the judges, making the cut to the semi-final round. Though they didn't make it to the final six, they could still have thousands in prize money coming to them, not to mention VC backing. Those prizes, along with the competition results, will be announced Saturday night.

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Another note -- cycleWood, a competition darling that is pitching an eco-friendly plastic bags business, says its pressure-reducing pump-up song is Katy Perry's "Firework." The opening lines: "Do you ever feel like a Plastic bag?"

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