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Search For The Next Google Focuses On America's College Campuses

Suzanne Isack
National Institute for Entrepreneurship
May 12 2004

Nation's Largest University Business Plan Competition Showcases America's Brightest Young Entrepreneurs

NEW YORK, NY - It's only been two weeks since Lean Forward Media, an interactive media company started by two students at Harvard Business School, beat out hundreds of challengers to capture first place in Venture Bowl 2004, the nation's largest university business plan competition. Yet, in that short time, co-founders Michelle Crames and Jeff Norton have opened the NASDAQ Stock Market, Michelle was named Forbes' Magazine's Future Capitalist, interest from Hollywood executives has intensified, and they have been showered with offers to fund their business.

Lean Forward Media holds the exclusive home entertainment rights to Choose Your Own Adventure, a series of children's books that sold over 150 million copies in the 1980's and 1990's. In the era before video games became popular, "Choose Your Own Adventure" books provided children with low-tech virtual reality. Readers lived out their fantasies by making decisions for "you," the book's main character, eventually arriving at one of many possible endings. Now a whole new generation of children will be able to enjoy the same experience, except in a much richer medium, on DVD, thanks to Lean Forward Media.

"Venture Bowl has been an extraordinary experience for us," exclaims Jeff Norton, adding, "It gave us an opportunity to showcase ourselves and our company to a stellar group of judges who provided invaluable advice." Finalist judges in Venture Bowl included Brian LeGette, CEO of 180s, maker of innovative performance wear and recently named Inc Magazine's Inner City 100 Fastest Growing Inner-City Company in America, Tom Potter, CEO of Brooklyn Brewery, one of America's most successful independent brewers, and Julius Walls, Jr., CEO of Greyston Bakery, best known as the makers of the two million pounds of brownies that go into Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream each year and a pioneer in social enterprise.

"Lean Forward Media is a wonderful example of the entrepreneurial spirit that exists on America's campuses," says David Geliebter, a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist and President of The National Institute for Entrepreneurship, organizer of Venture Bowl. "So much press is being devoted to the greatly-anticipated IPO of Google, a company founded a short six years ago by two former Stanford University students. This shouldn't come as any surprise. There are hundreds of similar success stories. Michael Dell started his made-to-order computer business from his college dorm room. FedEx started as a business plan Fred Smith wrote for a Yale University class. Netscape, Yahoo, and Cisco Systems were started by college students, and the list goes on."

"Venture Bowl gave us the opportunity to compete on a national scale against some of the best and brightest people around, which, in turn, challenged us to take our plan to the next level to achieve our dream," remarks Michelle Crames. "Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if Venture Bowl got as many applications as THE APPRENTICE . Forget lemonade stands. This is the real deal!"

Venture Bowl is organized by The National Institute for Entrepreneurship, an organization whose mission is to promote private sector growth through programs and initiatives that provide students at all educational levels with access to the entrepreneurial experience (www.tnife.org). Venture Bowl 2004 was the third annual competition the Institute has held. Major support for Venture Bowl is provided by Carrot Capital LLC, a New York-based venture capital firm investing in seed and early stage businesses. Additional support for Venture Bowl 2004 was provided by Forbes Magazine and HSBC Bank USA. Other winners in Venture Bowl 2004 included Property Solutions International, a team from Brigham Young University, Robotic Surgical Tech from Columbia University and Taco Tikka, a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill team.

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