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judges discussed each of the business plans in front of a live audience during final and semifinal rounds at Dartmouth, Dougherty says. (Think American Idol with entrepreneurs rather than would-be singers competing—and definitely without Paula Abdul pandering to contestants.) This live judging format is a bit different from some of the competitions I’ve seen where judges talk about the merits of each plan behind closed doors before winners are revealed in front of the audience. Dougherty says that the live judging format provided valuable insights for contestants and audience members who may want to hone their business pitches for venture capitalists and other potential investors.
Dougherty, 28, was already aware of how to start a business when he began the MBA program at Tuck in 2007. Dougherty is the founder and chairman of AskOnline, a provider of software for online tutoring in Marblehead, MA. The company grew from an effort Dougherty ran while he was an undergraduate at Harvard University to connect Harvard undergraduates with students around Boston who were struggling with their grades. AskOnline’s plan won the social enterprise track of an undergrad business plan contest at Harvard when Dougherty was a student there, he says.
Dartmouth and the Tuck School have had business plan competitions at different times in the past, but those contests were smaller than the DEN competition and have not become annual events. Dougherty points out that the prize money for the DEN competition is certainly more than what was awarded in the past. But it’s not all about the size of the prize in these contests. Tim Healy and David Brewster won $1,500 in for their plan for EnerNOC when they were Tuck students in 2002. They went on to build the provider of energy-saving technology and services into a publicly traded company (NASDAQ:ENOC) based in Boston.
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