TEA offers more than $35K in revamped business venture contest

January 21st, 2014

After hosting one of the region’s premiere college business plan competitions for 14 years, the Tulane Entrepreneurs Association (TEA) has completely redesigned the contest to better reward the practical aspects of what make startups successful – the ability to rapidly adapt to customers’ needs.


The 2014 Tulane Business Model Competition will award more than $35,000 in prizes to new business ventures demonstrating a customer-validated business model.

Instead of rewarding the theoretical, the new contest wants ventures to show they’ve worked with potential customers to vet their services, adapted to those needs and shown the ability to quickly change course if the market disproves their assumptions. The new Tulane Business Model Competition offers a $25,000 grand prize and a $10,000 award for runner-up.

“In this contest, sleek presentations are not going to cut it,” said Ralph Maurer, executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship at Tulane University’s A.B. Freeman School of Business. “Participants won’t be rewarded for overly ambitious sales projections, drawing fancy graphs or crafting the perfect pitch to venture capitalists.”

Instead the contest rewards teams for breaking down their idea into a key business model hypotheses; testing their assumptions with customers; applying Customer Development/Lean Startup principles to make sure they nail the solution; and learning to pivot until they have a customer-validated business model.

The contest is open to any team led by at least two or more students enrolled in a college or university. To enter, teams must submit a video presentation – normally a voice annotated slide deck no longer than 10 minutes – online by 11:59, Feb 14. More details on submission criteria are available at: http://tulane2014.istart.org/ .

“Entering the first round of the competition doesn’t require a significant time investment, and it’s a worthwhile exercise for anyone working on a startup,” Maurer said.

TEA will select eight semi-finalists who will win $1,000 each and get to pitch, receive mentoring and network with a variety of lean startup experts on Tuesday, March 25, in New Orleans. Ultimately, three finalists will present their business models at Tulane University on Friday, April 11, 2014.

- Keith Brannon

Times-Picayune: Bitcoin digital currency is starting to appear in New Orleans small businesses

January 16th, 2014


From The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, Jan. 15, 2014:

Geoffrey Smith, visiting assistant professor of finance at Tulane University, described Bitcoin as an “alternate means of storing value” that investors are using as a hedge against the dollar. He said it needs more stability, but he thinks it has potential to catch on, particularly because of its inflation-fighting finite supply.

The system is expected to create 21 million Bitcoins and then stop issuing more. The coins often are traded as fractional units. The web sites bitcoinexchangerate.org and bitcoincharts.com reported Wednesday morning that one Bitcoin translated to about $830.

“People can use anything as currency,” Smith said. “In jail, people use cigarettes.”

“There’s nothing special about paper with green ink,” and nothing wrong with competing currencies, he argued. “It’s based on faith that it has value.”

To read the article in its entirety, visit NOLA.com.


New book shares the lessons of Burkenroad Reports

January 14th, 2014

As director of the Freeman School’s Burkenroad Reports program, Peter Ricchiuti has spent more than 20 years highlighting the small, profitable companies that often fly under the radar of Wall Street. Now, Ricchiuti has collected some of the lessons he’s learned over the years in a new book.


Stocks Under Rocks shares some of the lessons of the Freeman School’s Burkenroad Reports program.

Stocks Under Rocks: How to Uncover Overlooked, Profitable Market Opportunities (FT Press), co-written with New Orleans Advocate features editor Annette Sisco, is a funny, informative guide to investing based on Riccchiuti’s experiences running the acclaimed student equities research program.

“It’s all the stories I tell in class and all the stories we get from visiting with the companies, but integrated into the funny stories is what we found that makes those companies a smart investment,” says Ricchiuti, a professor of practice in finance. “Every company represents a few anecdotes and a few funny stories but also one investment lesson learned.”

For example, don’t limit your investments to hip, sexy stocks. Ricchiuti says hopelessly unfashionable companies like pawn shops and convenience stores may not win you many points at cocktail parties, but they often generate higher returns than the latest media darling tech company.

“It’s the least attractive stuff,” Ricchiuti laughs, “but when you look at the financials, they all have great stories.”

Investors willing to look beyond the surface would learn that Cash America, for example, the pawn shop company, actually derives much of its revenue from a lucrative online loan business, while Susser Holdings, operator of Stripes convenience stores, attracts customers with a chain of high-quality in-store Mexican restaurants.

Ricchiuti says the biggest lesson of all when it comes to regional small-cap stocks is that individual investors really can gain an advantage over Wall Street.

“The conventional wisdom, particularly in academia, is that every stock is already efficiently priced, but when you get down low enough and small enough, there’s often times no other coverage,” Ricchiuti says. “If you’re willing to do the research, you really can know more than anyone else, and for an investor, that’s a great place to be.”

Peter Ricchiuti will be reading from and signing Stocks Under Rocks at the uptown location of Maple Street Book Shop on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 6 p.m.


Fox Sports taps students to design marketing campaign

December 10th, 2013

A class of students at the A. B. Freeman School of Business delivered their final presentations on Friday (Dec. 6), but these projects were for more than just a grade. They were to see which team would earn the right to have its marketing campaign executed by Fox Sports.


In December, Freeman students pitched 360-degree marketing campaigns to executives with Fox Sports. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

The presentations were the culmination of a semester-long project that took students in Professor of Practice John Howard’s undergraduate Advertising and Brand Promotion class and put them to work on behalf of Fox Sports New Orleans. The assignment? Create a 360-degree marketing campaign to promote the network’s coverage of Louisiana high school sports.

The students spent the semester conducting market research and developing ideas encompassing print, radio, TV and outdoor advertising as well as event marketing and social media. On Friday, representatives from Fox Sports and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) were on hand to see the results of their efforts and choose the winning campaign.

One team created a TV commercial that juxtaposed Louisiana imagery like wild alligators and flying Mardi Gras throws with football scrums and flying footballs. Another designed a clever campaign logo that added football laces to a fleur-de-lis.

In the end, after five hours of presentations and much deliberation, the judges selected “Louisiana: You Create Legends. You Make History,” a campaign built on the state’s reputation for producing future NFL stars, as the winner.

Mary Hyink, director of marketing with Fox Sports New Orleans/Southwest, said judges were particularly impressed by the team’s idea for an accompanying social media hashtag, #WheredYaGeaux, that plays on the local custom of identifying people by where they went to high school.

Winning team members show of their #WheredYaGo T-shirts.

Fox Sports New Orleans plans to use the campaign developed by a team of Freeman School students, above, to promote its coverage of Louisiana high school sports. (Photo by Mary Hyink)

“That really struck a chord with us,” said Hyink. “There were a lot of terrific presentations. I think for us, the true benefit is that not only did we have a winning team, but there were also other teams that we will probably pull an idea or tactic from to add to what we bring to life on air.”

The high school sports campaign was Tulane’s first project in association with Fox Sports’ Creative University program, which involves students in hand-on marketing and communications projects for the network. Tulane is one of 20 universities that Fox Sports has partnered with for the program.

“Our hope is that we’re giving students some real-life, real-client, real-world experience,” said Lindsay Amstutz, vice president of marketing for Fox Sports Networks. “For us, it’s a tremendous pipeline for potential talent. We’ve hired a lot of students who went through Creative University. It just really helps us tap into these young, creative minds.”


WSJ.com: When Superstition Works

November 26th, 2013


From WSJ.com, Nov. 25, 2013:

And while such superstitions can be broken, says Dr. Johar, it often takes a lot of negative evidence before people are willing to part with their lucky rituals. That’s because they “provide some sort of a hedge against uncertainty,” says Eric Hamerman, an assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business who, with Dr. Johar, co-wrote the study, published in October in the Journal of Consumer Research.

To read the article in its entirety, visit WSJ.com.


PMBA student earns top prize at PitchNOLA

November 21st, 2013

As a first-year Tulane University student in 2006, Teddy Nathan saw firsthand the power of public service. Now, as a young entrepreneur, he’s hoping to tap into that spirit of service to address some of the city’s biggest needs.

Celebrating at PitchNOLA are Crescent City Connections team members, from left, Annie Daskovsky and co-founder Teddy Nathan, with Propeller representative Rebecca Conwell and Zach Cheney, also a co-founder of the venture. (Photo by Ian Cockburn)

Celebrating at PitchNOLA are Crescent City Connections team members, from left, Annie Daskovsky and co-founder Teddy Nathan, with Propeller representative Rebecca Conwell and Zach Cheney, also a co-founder of the venture. (Photo by Ian Cockburn)

Nathan (LA ’10, MBA ’16), senior program coordinator at the Tulane Center for Public Service and a Professional MBA student at the A. B. Freeman School of Business, was the big winner at the fifth annual PitchNOLA competition. The elevator pitch contest for local social entrepreneurship ventures took place Tuesday night (Nov. 19) in front of a packed audience in the Woldenberg Art Center’s Freeman Auditorium on the Tulane uptown campus.

Nathan and colleagues Zach Cheney and Melissa Garber earned the $5,000 grand prize with their pitch for Crescent City Connections, which works with local nonprofits to create customized volunteer experiences for tourist groups. The organization then channels fees collected from the volunteers back to the sponsoring nonprofit.

In awarding this year’s top prize, judges praised Crescent City Connections for its efforts to turn the growing demand for volunteer opportunities into sustainable income for nonprofits.

“I think there was a sense that if somebody could come along and connect volunteers with opportunities, that would serve both the people who benefit from the volunteers and the volunteers themselves, who could get to experience a different part of New Orleans,” said John Frazee, senior vice president with CBS News and one of this year’s judges. “They seemed to have the potential for having impact on a lot of people.”

For Nathan, winning this year’s PitchNOLA was a special thrill.

“I come every year,” he said. “I’ve been in the audience for the last four years, so it’s crazy to be here on stage right now.”

Nathan said he plans to use the prize money to host a pilot event for members of the business, hospitality and nonprofit communities to help those partners better understand what the organization hopes to provide for tourist groups.

“It’s so they can actually have the volunteer experience we’ve been talking about, so that it’s no longer just a concept,” Nathan explains. “They can then be our goodwill ambassadors.”

In addition to Crescent City Connections, PitchNOLA also awarded a $500 “audience favorite” prize to I Heart Louisiana, which helps connect Mardi Gras krewes to locally sourced and sustainable throws.

PitchNOLA was a joint presentation of Social Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Tulane, the A. B. Freeman School of Business and Propeller, a nonprofit that supports social innovation in New Orleans.

HBR.org: Saving Academic Medicine from Obsolescence

November 11th, 2013

Harvard Business Review

From HBR.org, Nov. 8, 2013:

Ralph Maurer, professor of practice and interim executive director of the Levy-Rosenblum Institute for Entrepreneurship, co-authored an article for the HBR Blog Network about how Tulane School of Medicine is embracing disruptive innovation to deal with some of the challenges currently facing academic medicine. The article was written in collaboration with Benjamin P. Sachs, senior vice president and dean emeritus of Tulane School of Medicine, Marc J. Kahn, senior associate dean of Tulane School of Medicine, and Steven A. Wartman, president and CEO of the Association of Academic Health Centers.

One solution to this problem is moving the majority of primary and secondary healthcare delivery into the community. After Hurricane Katrina, Tulane partnered with a network of Federally Qualified Health Centers in order to provide services to low and middle-income patients in community-based clinics designated as medical homes. These not only provide less expensive care, but also provide the kind of experiential learning necessary to teach expertise to trainees.

To read the article in its entirety, visit HBR.org.




Potential for awesomeness is the promise of the Internet

November 6th, 2013

The Internet is a powerful force that’s still evolving in unexpected, exciting and cool ways. The promise of the Internet is that “it actually lets us achieve our maximum for awesome,” said Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, a social news and entertainment website with 81 million unique visitors a month.

Tulane alumnus Erik Martin, right, general manager of Reddit, a wildly successful social news and entertainment website, and Alexis Ohanian, Reddit's co-founder, discuss the advantages of being a humanities major in a tech world. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Tulane alumnus Erik Martin, right, general manager of Reddit, a wildly successful social news and entertainment website, and Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s co-founder, discuss the advantages of being a humanities major in a tech world. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)

Ohanian spoke at a Tulane Entrepreneurs Association event on Friday (Nov. 1) as part of a 150-stop bus tour promoting his book Without Their Permission.

All links on the World Wide Web are created equal, Ohanian pointed out. “That means that any one of us with our Internet connections and our great ideas can spread them faster and further than ever before. We can use the Internet as an amazing stage and library for knowledge.”

Joining Ohanian on stage was the general manager of Reddit, Erik Martin, a 1999 Tulane University graduate.

Ira Solomon, dean of the A. B. Freeman School of Business, introduced Martin — named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people — as “perhaps Tulane’s favorite alum who is at the center of the tech world.”

Reddit is a bulletin board, where users post links and original text, called “selfs.” It is “an extremely powerful voice for sharing knowledge and for shaping public opinion,” said Solomon.

“Subreddits” are postings organized by subject areas. Reddit users vote up or down on postings, determining a posting’s ranking and position on the page.

Martin said that his education (he earned a BA in American studies) taught him how to recognize cultural patterns, a skill that comes in handy now as he organizes the intersections of interesting things “to unpack and explore” on Reddit postings.

“I’ve been lucky enough to do at Reddit [what he did as an American studies major] … to look and see how there’s something really interesting going on,” Martin said. “Let’s see where it can go.”

— Mary Ann Travis

Research Notes: Michael Burke

October 25th, 2013

Michael BurkeMichael Burke’s paper “Statistical Significance Criteria for the rWG and Average Deviation Interrater Agreement Indices,” co-authored with Kristin Smith-Crowe, Ayala Cohen and Etti Doveh, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Burke is a professor of management and the Lawrence Martin Chair in Business at Tulane University’s A. B. Freeman School of Business. He holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. The senior author of the paper, Kristin Smith-Crowe, is a graduate of Tulane’s Industrial/Organizational Psychology doctoral program, which is cooperatively administered with the Freeman School’s Organizational Behavior doctoral program. Since 2011, Smith-Crowe has been a tenured associate professor at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business. She is currently visiting as a Senior Fellow at the Wharton School of Business. Ayala Cohen and Etti Doveh are on the faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.


Groome and Tice receive inaugural Teaching Awards

October 25th, 2013

A legal studies instructor who sends her students into New Orleans courtrooms to help improve the city’s criminal justice system and a finance professor whose students are actively managing more than $3 million in Tulane University endowment funds are the first recipients of a new award that recognizes the best in teaching at the A. B. Freeman School of Business.

Sanda Groome

Sanda Groome

Sheri Tice

Sheri Tice

Sanda Groome, professor of practice in business and legal studies, received the first Teaching Excellence Award for Undergraduate Education, while Sheri Tice, professor of finance, received the first Teaching Excellence Award for Graduate Education. Dean Ira Solomon announced the awards, which include a $5,000 cash prize, at a faculty meeting in September.

“This was not an easy decision,” Solomon says. “[Senior Associate Dean] Paul Spindt and our six area coordinators submitted more than a dozen nominees, and each one deserved commendation for outstanding teaching. Ultimately, Sanda and Sheri stood out, and they stood out in large part for their efforts on behalf of Court Watch NOLA and the Darwin Fenner Fund, two unique, high-value experiential learning projects.”

Groome began teaching at the Freeman School in 2006, and in 2008, she joined the full-time faculty as a professor of practice. In 2009, she began a collaboration with Court Watch NOLA, a not-for-profit that monitors judges and reports on the efficiency of the New Orleans criminal justice system. As part of Groome’s Legal Studies service learning course, students go to court and take notes on how judges preside over criminal trials. Those notes are then incorporated into Court Watch reports, which serve as a valuable resource for voters during elections.

“Court Watch isn’t pro-state or pro-defense or even pro-court,” says Groome. “We just observe what’s going on. If you see that a judge has canceled court on many days or if he or she is always late, that will come out in the report.”

Besides helping to promote transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system, Groome says the program offers students valuable insights about the judicial system.

“Most student have never been in a courtroom before,” says Groome. “What they’re expecting is what they’ve seen on TV and in movies, and they quickly learn that it’s not really like that. I think it gives them a much better idea of the criminal court system, and it also shows them how the system affects not just the person on trial, but the victim, the families and the community.”

Tice joined the Freeman School in 1998, and has served as the A. B. Freeman Chair of Finance since 2011. In 2002, she took over the directorship of a dormant student investment fund and made it the centerpiece of an invitation-only honors seminar. Students in the Darwin Fenner Student Managed Fund course read current academic papers and use that research to develop models to screen sectors and identify mispriced stocks. At the end of the semester, students vote on which stocks in the $3 million fund to buy, hold and sell.

“I’m not a big believer in just standing up and lecturing whatever they can read in a textbook,” Tice says. “Instead, we discuss assigned academic research papers in class, and then the students apply what they’ve learned using real money and real stocks.”


Tice, seated in the center, with the Darwin Fenner Fund’s 2013 MFIN class.

Based on the fund’s performance, that approach seems to be working. Since 2002, the undergraduate-managed large-cap portfolio has beaten the market by 1.3 percent per year while the mid-cap portfolio, managed by MBA and MFIN students, has outperformed the market by 1.67 percent per year, both without taking on any additional risk using traditional risk measures. The program has been so successful that a small-cap portfolio was spun off this year to enable more students to take the class.

While a number of other schools have student-managed funds, Tice says the Darwin Fenner Fund is unique for involving both undergraduates and graduate students and for its emphasis on leading-edge research.

“To me, a great professor is someone who is able to bring research alive in the classroom,” Tice says. “I think that’s where the experiential learning component helps. Students struggle with reading the research papers, but when you tell them they have to invest a large amount of money and understanding these papers is going to enable them to be at the cutting edge and compete against the smartest people on Wall Street, it gives them an extra incentive and they learn the material.”

The Teaching Excellence Award is an outgrowth of the Freeman School’s recent strategic planning process. A faculty task force recommended consolidating the school’s various teaching recognitions into two awards—one each at the undergraduate and graduate levels—that recognize faculty members who are excellent educators and whose teaching aligns with the school’s strategic objectives.

Under the newly established system, area coordinators nominate faculty members within their respective areas, and those nominations are then supplemented with recommendations from the senior associate dean. Among the criteria to be considered are student evaluations, the extent to which the faculty member integrates academic research into his or her teaching, and whether the course provides high-impact experiential learning opportunities for students.

“Teaching is one of the most important activities in which we engage at the Freeman School, so it’s important for us to acknowledge and formally honor outstanding classroom instruction,” says Solomon. “Sanda and Sheri are true exemplars of teaching excellence, so I’m happy to be able to recognize and honor them as the first recipients of this award.”

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