Student Business Treads Path to Success

Stephen Chapek
The Daily Herald
April 5 2003


After winning Brigham Young University's annual Business Plan Competition on Friday, Property Solutions hopes to take its place among the roster of successful startup businesses launched from the prestigious event. At least, David Bateman knows he's in good company.

"I feel the pressure," said the 24-year-old president of the new company, referring to everyone's expectation of great things to come. "But it's also a motivation to succeed."

Property Solutions, a business that Bateman launched in November 2002 with two fellow BYU students, Mike Trionfo and Ben Zimmer, along with two of his friends, provides an integrated software solution for property management companies. Their software allows tenants to submit maintenance requests and pay rent online, and generally enhances the efficiency of property management operations.

The $50,000 in cash and business services that Property Solutions won in the competition will allow the company to move forward quickly without diluting the founders' equity, but it is by no means the company's reason for being. Bateman already has a track record of being an entrepreneur, having started a letter expediting service called DearElder.com, and was able to save $100,000 from his last business to fund his current venture.

Yet the recognition that winning the competition provided is something for which Bateman is grateful.

"It gives us a lot of momentum," Bateman said. Within 10 minutes of being announced the winner, he said, several eager investors approached him.

For now, Bateman is content to stay the course mapped out in his business plan, using funds already amassed for the product roll-out. Beta testing of the company's software product, called Vantage XP, is under way with Glenwood Intermountain Properties, one of Utah County's largest property management companies. The official product launch is planned for May 1.

Bateman's business plan anticipates the company will be able to start turning a profit by the second year of operation, with a net income of nearly $600,000. In year three, he expects profits to climb into the millions.

"Of course, those are just assumptions," said Bateman, but he is confident the company can achieve those goals by signing up only a few local clients with several hundred residential units under management.

Bateman's drive to succeed and be independent goes back to his childhood growing up on a ranch in Montana. Bateman's first experience as an entrepreneur was starting a lawn-care business.

"I've always wanted to be in business for myself," he said. "I realized a long time ago that I didn't want to work for anyone else."

Should Property Solutions reach its goal, it will join the growing rank of other student businesses that have come out of the BYU's Business Plan Competition to reach considerable success. Competition winners in the last five years like Mindwire, Adoption.com and 800-LENS NOW have gone on to national success with thousands of customers, and in some cases, public offerings of stock.

Also uSight.com, which placed first in the competition last year, is well on its way to major success as it was recognized this year as one of Utah's fastest growing businesses. Located in Orem, uSight.com, which builds e-commerce Web sites for other businesses as well as selling do-it-yourself Web site software, now employs 60 workers and generated more than $10 million in revenue in 2002, only its third year in business, according to founder Brandt Andersen.

Like this year's competition winner, Andersen credits not so much the competition itself, but the training and advice given by the faculty and mentors at BYU's Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), which sponsors the competition, for clearing the path to success.

"I've been able to avoid many pitfalls by listening to the advice of experienced entrepreneurs there," Andersen said. "I recommend that students take advantage of it."

Bateman was able to strengthen his business plan for Property Solutions after being mentored by an experienced entrepreneur assigned to him by CFE. "They have an amazing faculty at the Center for Entrepreneurship," he said. "I've gotten to know them all."

Stuart Farmer, owner of Open Air Cinema, the second-place winner in the 2002 competition, also pointed to the invaluable guidance he gained at CFE, particularly the encouragement of the center's director, Don Livingstone.

"That's where I got fueled," Farmer said. "They helped us realize we could make it."

Open Air Cinema, which is coming into its third season, offers moviegoers the pleasure of watching films under the stars thanks to a giant inflatable movie screen.

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