BYU Student Business in Fortune Finals
A start-up company founded by BYU student entrepreneurs is one of nine nation-wide finalists for Fortune Small Business Magazine's first ever "MBA Showdown."
David Bateman, a business major with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, is chief executive officer of Property Solutions, a business that builds web-based software for the multi-family property management industry. Benjamin Zimmer, Michael Trionfo and Bateman founded the company this year.
"We're extremely lucky to have even made it in the competition, let alone as finalists," said Zimmer, vice president of marketing. "I think we're probably the only undergraduates in this competition."
Only first place winners from business plan competitions sponsored by accredited MBA programs were asked to submit their plans to Fortune Magazine. Zimmer said most of the finalists are MBA students.
Property Solutions qualified by taking first place in BYU's 2003 Business Plan Competition - the largest business plan program of any private school in the nation; they won a total of $50,000 in cash and services.
The idea behind Property Solutions is automating property management, Bateman said.
He came up with the idea when his wife, a property manager, came home every day complaining about all the things that drove her nuts about her job, he said.
The software, Vantage XP, includes several time-saving tools for both managers and residents through a Web-based management system that communicates with a Web site, Bateman said. Instead of spending four to five days each month collecting rent, like Bateman's wife did, residents can pay rent online or have it automatically deducted from their bank accounts.
The system would automatically update rent payments, so no one would need to log them each month, Bateman said.
Residents can also submit maintenance requests online. Maintenance personnel will have palm pilots with cellular connections allowing them to check requests while working. Personnel can go directly to the job and check it off as finished while the information is automatically piped into the management system.
Property Solutions management submits their business plan to the "MBA Showdown" today.
Finalists are required to present their plans in a 10-minute teleconference call, Bateman said. Venture capitalists scattered throughout the nation listen in on the call and judge participants on their presentations. The 10-minute presentation is followed by a five-minute question and answer session. No materials of any kind are allowed to be sent in and the participants are not allowed to create a power point presentation.
"We're feeling a little bit of pressure on it," Bateman said. "You've got 10 minutes to show them what you've got and they do the judging based on that."
Michael Trionfo, chief information officer of Property Solutions, said Bateman and Zimmer will be the main presenters for the showdown today.
"Dave and Ben are doing a great job so far," Trionfo said. "I'm sure they'll keep doing a great job."
Fortune Magazine has not told each school who the other finalists are, but Bateman said they are usually schools such as Stanford or Harvard.
The magazine offers a $50,000 award to the first place business plan.
"It would be a big deal to us if we won," Bateman said.
The money would allow them to gain a larger cash base in their company and sell less equity in the future, Zimmer said.
Bateman said business has fascinated him since he was young. When he came to BYU, he affiliated himself with the Center for Entrepreneurship in the Marriott School and started in a mentor program that taught him how to operate a business.
One piece of advice Bateman offers to prospective entrepreneurs is to start a business while in school and take advantage of the resources BYU and other schools offer.
"I'll go to class and learn a concept and I'll go back to the office after class and use it," he said. "It's just uncanny how all the things you learn, you actually apply."
Mentors in the Center for Entrepreneurship have been a great resource to Bateman, he said.
Center for Entrepreneurship founder Gary Williams is also founder and former CEO of the Sterling Wentworth Corporation. He sold his publicly traded company and now involves himself with the Center.
Bateman said Williams's ability to analyze business strategy is exceptional. The Property Solutions founders said they feel it is a great advantage to receive advice and counsel from Williams and other mentors who have so much knowledge and experience.
If students intend to be entrepreneurs and own their own business, when they are students is the time to do it - financial obligations are less and huge resources are available, Bateman said.
"It will supplement your learning," he said. "Your business will help you in your classes and your classes will help you in your business. It's just an awesome time."
Other members of the Property Solutions management team include Jordan Jones, senior developer, and Jeramy Morrill, creative director.
The company employs 12 individuals as well as six sales people. About eight complexes in Provo and 17 in Rexburg, Idaho, have signed up for the company's services.
This is not Bateman's first shot at starting a business. He is also the founder of dearelder.com, a Web site that allows individuals to write letters via e-mail to missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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