David Stevens (’75) was selected to represent the University of Tennessee as a judge in the first student business pitch competition during the annual SEC Symposium. The competition will take place in Atlanta on September 21. Stevens is one of 12 judges, each an alumnus of a different school from the Southeastern Conference.
“I think it’s great background for anyone who wants to go into business,” Stevens said. “There is nothing like going through the pitfalls and starts and stops of starting a business.”
Lynn Youngs, executive director of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, chose Stevens to represent Haslam for his experience on both sides of the pitch. Stevens founded a pharmacy services company called Accredo Health in 1996 and took it public in 1999. He is now a private equity investor who focuses on providing capital to lower-middle market growth companies in the healthcare services industry.
As a member of the Haslam College of Business’s Advisory Board, Stevens also has observed several student presentations during the Vol Court and Boyd Venture Challenge competitions.
Stevens believes that the business concept and an owner’s passion are more important in a pitch than initial financial success. “Everyone has weaknesses,” he said. “We often end up investing in companies that have a founder with a strong vision but maybe needs help in financing or marketing or handling a broader market.”
He also advises entrepreneurs not to be intimidated by larger players in the market. “We talk to a lot of people who are concerned about being able to compete with the big corporations,” Stevens said. “We totally disagree. A well thought out plan that has a clearly defined niche can compete against anyone.”
The pitch competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students from SEC schools. Other judges range in business focus from sales to CEOs and presidents of major corporations.
The SEC Symposium brings Southeastern Conference universities together to address a different scholarly issue on an annual basis. The pitch competition grew out of this year’s theme of entrepreneurship and innovation.
For more information about the symposium, please visit:http://secsymposium.com/entrepreneurial-pitch-competition-includes-sec-alumni-as-judges.php.