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8 Min Read

Mark Tank: UAT Future Entrepreneurs Compete in a Sink-Or-Swim Competition

Dr. Mark Smith, Professor and Program Champion of Business Technology, has been throwing UAT students to the sharks for 4 years through his “Mark Tank” program. Held at the end of each semester and upon completion of the Business 200 course, students are mostly competing for entrepreneurial bragging rights, but those presenting also get exposure to area professionals who judge the competition—and the people that choose who swims away a winner.




The audience and judges listen to the student presentations during Mark Tank. 


We talked to Dr. Smith about the competition and the winners from December.


Dr. Smith, please describe the purpose of your program and its goal.


Dr. Smith: "Mark Tank" is a UAT's version of Shark Tank where students pitch their hypothetical business ideas to a panel of real-world entrepreneurs, business owners and potential investors. The goal is for the students is to see who can give the best pitch, be the most prepared and sway the panel to want to invest in them.


How did the unique award statue come about?


Dr. Smith: The award was originally a shark trophy, but when the event gained the name “Mark Tank,” a student had the idea of using me as the model of the trophy to be a more muscular version of the “Oscars” statue. So, we did the 3D scan and 3D printed them to create the busts that we have now. They have gotten larger over the semesters and look better as we get better with the printing.



Mark Tank Award statues for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. 


Do you take it easy on them, or would you say you and the judges strong arm them, like they may experience in real life?


Dr. Smith: They definitely strong arm them, but give insight and guidance after the criticism.



Dr. Smith questions a presenter while judge Ephrem Jando (Associate Broker at Platinum Living Realty and a Real Estate Investor), UAT Professor Natasha Vita-More, and judge Jacy Smith (UAT Business Development Specialist) listen to the answer.


How did you feel about the fall presentations?


Dr. Smith: I was very happy with the presentations and the preparedness of the students. These students were from three different BUS200 classes, which is the course this event is tied to. They held their own, answered tough questions and took the criticisms well under pressure.



Jake Fusco presents his idea, Ampytheatre, to the audience and judges. 


Four projects were entered, but only one was deemed the winner. The following are the results of the fall competition.


Gold Mark Tank Award Winner

Project: Ace of Spades (entertainment and bar), presented by Christopher Hernke 

The project pitch is for a poker-themed bar and restaurant. The main selling point was a POS system built off of hard plastic playing cards that would track the tabs of the customers. The establishment could set limits to prevent overindulgence from patrons, who could order from and pay from POS kiosk systems with these individually linked cards. 



L to R: Dr. Smith, Christopher Hernke, and Valeria Cimarossa, Christopher's Business 200 Instructor. 


Silver Mark Tank Award Winner

Project: Demeter’s Watch, presented by Marissa Williams

The project is an idea for a home gardening sensor that would be attached to an application that would track an owner’s plants and notify them when they needed water, soil, sunlight, etc.



L to R: Dr. Smith, Marissa Williams, and Dapzury Valenzuela, Marissa's Business 200 Instructor. 


Bronze Mark Tank Award Winner

Project: Eyes Breaker, presented by Marc Benson

This project is a social interaction application that would allow introverted individuals to find other people close in proximity (that are also introverts) to converse with. The app would prompt users with shared interests between and give suggestions of how to "break the ice" and start a conversation. 



L to R: Dr. Smith, Marc Benson, and Natasha Vita-More, Marc's Business 200 Professor. 


Congrats, and a job well done to all students who participated!



The judges and winners, l to r: judge Jacy Smith, Christopher Hernke, Marissa Williams, Marc Benson, judge Brittany Cunningham (head of learning development for Learn with IntraEdge), judge Ephrem Jando, Dr. Smith, and judge Robert Walker (UAT Assistant Director of Admissions). 



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