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Bigger Splash Coming to Shark Tank Event

  • By: Anna Molendorp
  • Published:
shark tank judges and contestant

On November 2, Taylor University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) will be hosting the campus’ tenth Shark Tank event. In past years, victors like John O. Houlihan, owner of Four Brothers’ Handcrafted Chocolates, and Paddy McNamara, founder of Allera Tech, have gone on to expand their businesses with investors.

Big Changes

This year’s Shark Tank will provide even more opportunities than the previous nine events. 

“Our mission is to train, mentor, and equip Kingdom-focused innovators for a lifetime of creative flourishing,” said Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Dr. Mick Bates, co-leader of the CIE. 

Due to generous support from judges, the CIE has increased the prize package. Instead of earning $3,000, Shark Tank winners will receive $5,000, second-place $2,500, and third-place $1,000. Also new this year is an Audience Choice Award of $1,000.

The pool of “sharks,” or judges, has been expanded from three to five with the addition of a special guest, Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg. This increase in judges creates a greater diversity of entrepreneurial expertise and more networking opportunities for finalists. Interaction with the judges has always been an integral part of the event, and the addition of the two judges will enhance the depth and breadth of the experience.

“We are honoring and recognizing the legacy of the nine previous Shark Tanks, but we’re also using this as an opportunity to launch a more Taylor-branded Shark Tank,” Bates said.

Application and Preparation

In the days leading up to the event, the CIE takes registrations from students in the Taylor community. It’s free to apply; all that’s required is each person’s availability and desire to take an idea forward. Once registered, each contestant delivers an elevator pitch and answers questions from a panel of CIE judges who will determine the six final presenters. Finalists then pitch their concepts before six judges. 

But before those contestants appeal to the judges, they are given assistance to prepare their pitches. 

“These finalists will work with the CIE and also receive consulting from Flagship Enterprise Center, which is an incubator/accelerator in Anderson,” Bates said. “They’re going to help refine their concepts and improve the effectiveness of their pitch. We believe in these finalists so much that we’re going to invest in some outside help for these teams.”

Shark Tank’s Purpose

“Shark Tank on Taylor’s campus is really intended to be a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship,” Bates said. 

The CIE puts great emphasis on extracurricular activities like Shark Tank. The event is open to all students because they believe anyone can have an idea or concept, but a lack of opportunities can be a barrier. 

“When I think of students coming in, this is a very tangible exercise that’s available every single fall, and once they get into Shark Tank, if they do well, then we’re going to be able to work with them to take them to other places where they can win free money from business competitions,” Bates said.

Bates described the awarded money as “free” because it lacks the strings that come with investments and loans that most early start-up businesses rely on.

The CIE also ensures that faith is embedded in Taylor’s Shark Tank. 

“During the event, there will be a lot of attribution to how God has impacted the competitors,” Bates said. “The sharks have a kingdom-based outlook on business, entrepreneurship, and life in general. Ultimately, it’s God who brings success or failure.”

Additionally, the work students do after participating in Shark Tank has great potential to glorify God. 

“If you’re solving problems better than everyone else and you’re building organizations to solve those problems founded in loving others as yourself, then you’re loving on people,” Bates said. “You have opportunities to build relationships that deliver truth.”

Business & Entrepreneurship at Taylor

Beyond offering Shark Tank and the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Minor/Certificate, the CIE is also a source of entrepreneurial education, training, mentoring, and capital. 

Programs such as the IMPACT Innovation & Entrepreneurship Camp for high school students and Founders Fellows provide training and direct engagement for young aspiring entrepreneurs. Competitions on and off campus place students into the real world of pitching for investments. Space at the upcoming Innovation Hub will create a common location and more importantly, a community, for students to work on their ideas. Additionally, this community has access to expertise from internal and external entrepreneurial professionals. 

Innovation and entrepreneurship are differentiating skills and mindsets that will allow Taylor students to multiply their Kingdom impact by training them to launch world-changing ventures for the common good. Interested in learning more about the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship or the Business Department? Schedule a visit!