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Phyre, Other Startups Place In Yearly BCVC Competition

Heights Staff

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013

Updated: Thursday, April 11, 2013 15:04

Phyre, Other Startups Place In Yearly BCVC Competition

Alex Gaynor // Heights Editor

Yesterday the Boston College Venture Competition (BCVC) announced this year’s winners at their seventh annual event. BCVC is a yearly business plan competition founded to promote and support entrepreneurship on campus. Many successful BC-founded firms, including WePay, Wymsee, LocalOn, NBD Nano and, most recently, Jebbit, got their start competing in BCVC.

Phyre, a company that is trying to improve how people connect their personal devices to large screens, won 1st place and $20,000 in this year’s competition. Fetch Rewards, a company creating a mobile application that aims to revolutionize grocery shopping, won 2nd place and $10,000. Knowledge Arena, a website that allows users to win money by doing well on user-generated tests, won 3rd place and $2,500.  

“One of the questions we got [from the VCs] was that our product was priced too low,” said Patrick Allen, A&S ’13, of Phyre. “It was the best thing that could have possibly happened. The questions for us were mostly compliments. We really felt like that was our ‘A-game,’ we put everything we had out there.”

The other two finalists that participated in the event consisted of Campus Calories, a college-specific nutritional mobile application, and Streak Media, a collegiate email newsletter.

Prominent venture capitalists such as Dan Nova, BC ’83, from Highland Capital Partners; Peter Osbourne from WilmerHale, Greg Dracon from .406 Ventures, and Hugh Crean, BC ’93, and Bilal Zuberi, both from General Catalyst Partners, were judges for the competition.

“The judges are ridiculously amazing people,” said Matthew Ricketson, A&S ’13, of Phyre. “In real life, they’re impossible to get a meeting with. We just got 25 minutes of their time to tell them about what we’re doing. That’s just an opportunity that we won’t be able to get again until after we graduate.”

The event attracted many people who were curious to learn about BC’s student ventures. Recent graduates, some of whom are involved in Boston’s tech scene, also attended the event and were impressed with what they saw.

“Coming out, I heard someone say, ‘That was the best pitch I ever heard.’ Another company said that they got one of the judges to want to sit down and talk to them regardless of the outcome [of the competition],” said Spencer Frazier, BC ’11, co-founder of Drizly, a startup alcohol delivery service.  

The caliber of entrepreneurs entering BCVC has improved drastically over the past seven years. Many of those involved considered this year  to be the most competitive ever.

“This sets a precedent for the BC companies now that are saying, ‘I want to go into BCVC.’ They now realize, all of a sudden, that you need to be Phyre or Streak. You need to be at that level before you even go in,” said Nick Rellas, BC ’11, also a co-founder of Drizly.

Jim Alvarez, an angel investor at Dogbar Ventures, served as a mentor for Streak Media this year and last year for NBD Nano.

“I think the caliber was stepped up pretty significantly this year,” Alvarez said. “I think the teams have worked a lot harder. I think the presentation skills were much better. So I think what it is really showing is a maturation of the program because guys are really working hard. There’s a lot of these types of programs in town and the BC community brings a whole different dimension to it.”

John Gallaugher, associate professor of information systems, has mentored many BC entrepreneurs and serves as a faculty advisor for BCVC.

“In a school that does not have an engineering school I believe that we have built the strongest, if not one of the strongest undergraduate venture competitions in the country,” he said. “The track record in just the last four years have been teams going to Y-Combinator, TechStars, Summer@Highland, and MassChallenge. One of the guys who participated tonight won one of the tracks at the MIT ESC [Executive Summary Competition] as a sophomore. We have another team that won the Yale YES Competition as well.”

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