Seven finalists in the Draper Business Plan Competition will vie for three prizes worth more than $20,000 on April 15 from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Alumnae House. The event is free and open to the public.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Seven student entrepreneurs will face off in front of a panel of distinguished investors on Monday, April 15, in an elimination round akin to “American Idol”—except in this case, judging will not be based on vocal talent but the viability of their business plan.

Melissa (class of '77) and Tim Draper in back row. Bill and Phyllis Culbertson Draper (class of '53) seated.

Melissa (class of ’77) and Tim Draper in back row. Bill and Phyllis Culbertson Draper (class of ’53) seated.

The student presentations are the last of several rounds in the Draper Business Plan Competition, a yearlong event in which three winning entrepreneurs will receive prizes worth more than $20,000. Five contestants have already been selected for the final round where they are guaranteed a shot at winning. (See descriptions below.)

On the evening of the competition, judges will name two more finalists, who will then deliver elevator pitches—short verbal summaries of their business plans—along with the five others. Winners will be named that night.

The event was made possible by a gift from alumna Melissa Draper, class of 1977, and her husband Tim, the founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm that has invested in more than 400 companies including Hotmail and Skype. Mr. Draper envisioned the competition as “North X Northampton”—moving in the direction of the popular music festival and business competition in Texas called “South X Southwest.”

The top prize is a $10,000 cash award plus a full scholarship to Draper University of Heroes, a six-week program in Silicon Valley that nurtures entrepreneurs through the business-creation process, with mentoring and coaching from experts. Two additional $5,000 prizes will be awarded to follow-up winners.

While it’s not exactly “American Idol,” this competition does require perfect pitch—a business plan pitch, that is.  And, like many of the television show contestants, the Smith students have experienced their share of nervousness and self-doubt throughout the months leading to the competition.

Along the way, they identified target markets, calculated revenue needs and researched industry competitors during workshops hosted by the Center for Women & Financial Independence.

Many of the earlier contestants will display and discuss their business plans at a trade show prior to the elevator pitches, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Alumnae House. They include the five finalists plus an additional nine contestants vying for the wild card slots.

The following are the five finalists already selected, and their business ideas.


Sicong Ma ’13, China

Career76 is a one-stop information hub for Chinese students in America to get career advice, exchange job-hunting experiences and look for jobs available to them. It provides a four-step program to help students identify their passion, find targeted culture-fit companies, prepare for customized résumés and excel in interviews. Major start-up costs: Website creation and maintenance.

Your Market Match

Melody Setoodehnia ’14, California

Your Market Match is a website designed to make the process of finding professional real estate agents more convenient for homebuyers and sellers. Your Market Match profiles realtors based on performance data: volume of listings, asking-to-selling price ratio, price range and area of expertise. Buyers will then enter their information and requirements for an agent into our database and will receive matches that meet their needs.

Ana Duran ’13, Tennessee is an online student marketplace where college students can post any product or service they would like to buy or sell in their college community as well as any product they want to buy or sell to other college students nationwide.  UBselling went live two months ago at Smith College as a proof of concept prototype. Major start-up costs include $10,000 to redesign the website and launch to a broader community. The main source of income will be bi-annual subscriptions from students.


Mariem Ayadi ’16, Tunisia

Acquiring a better understanding of touch screen technology is one of the most exciting subjects discussed among the “hobbyist” community, the company’s premier target market. MyTouchScreen is a high-tech assembly kit that allows “Do It Yourself” (DIY) people to create their own multi-touch screen and share their experience on the company’s online forum with other enthusiasts. Later, MyTouchScreen’s target market could expand to include the student market.

Valkyries Lingerie 

Emma Sager ’15, Florida

With a revolutionary sizing technique and the most style choices in the lingerie industry, Valkyries Lingerie is a website that offers American women, aged 20 to 35, the closest thing to an affordable custom-made bra that can be sold at department store prices. Major start-up costs: Website creation and the money to manufacture a line designed exclusively at Valkyries.

Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,600 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.

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