If You Can’t Beat It, Then Start a Business

Today was ICE Challenge Day in my class, one of my favorite days of the year.

The sponsor of the Challenge is Villanova’s own ICE Institute, where ICE stands for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship. Here is a brief description of the Challenge:

The ICE Challenge is an annual requirement for all students entering the Villanova School of Business, Villanova College of Engineering, and Villanova College of Nursing. In the first eight weeks of the academic year, students propose and pitch ideas in their required first-year classes. The top teams receive prizes and an opportunity to pitch their idea at the ICE Challenge IdeaBounceยฎ.

I had the opportunity to listen to 40 idea pitches today, and in a sign of the times, 10 of the ideas were in direct response to the pandemic and COVID-19. Here are those ideas:

  • Mask dispensing machine
  • SafeStep (designed to assist with opening doors)
  • FogBlocker
  • Mask Sanitizing Machine
  • Contactless Bathroom
  • Mask Managers
  • Germ Buffer
  • Mask Cleaner
  • Mobile Haircutting/Manicures
  • Clean Screen

So 25% of the ideas are COVID/Pandemic related; ideas that would not have existed last year.

I think this shows that COVID is certainly on many of the students’ minds, and it’s no surprise. After all, this is the group that missed out on the end of their high school days. They did not know what college would be like, and have adapted quite well so far in terms of wearing masks and sanitizing their chairs and seats.

And now when they are given the opportunity to fight back, they do so with some clever ideas.

It will be interesting to see if any of the ideas progress on the next round of the C\hallenge; I will write a follow-up when the finalists are announced.

Some people look at COVID-19 and see the problems; others look at COVID-19 and see the opportunities…

*image from FoxNews

39 thoughts on “If You Can’t Beat It, Then Start a Business

    1. I think the idea behind the contactless bathroom was one in which your hands did not have to touch any surface in the bathroom – using sensors for everything…


  1. My idea would be a speakeasy style hugging business, where people employ a secret knock to be allowed admittance into a room full of other people who aren’t wearing masks. Everybody gets to hug each other, thus experiencing some human contact they have been missing in their lives. A secret tunnel allows everyone to escape in a hurry, in case of a raid by the Covid police.

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  2. Do many of the ideas involve apps? Coming up with a great app seems to be the way to become an instant billionaire. You might lose some good students with this competition if they think they can make money with their ideas. Is there ever an issue about ownership of ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. of the other 30 ideas presented, probably 10-15 involved apps. I’d love to see a student pursue their idea further, but most, if not all, of them view this as just another assignment to complete. As for ownership, I believe part of the competition entails the students entering their idea at the University’s “incubator” web site, and once they do that, I think the idea is protected. Of course, I automatically get a 10% ownership stake in very business… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the students only have a week to pull this together, so checking if the idea already exists is usually not a high priority (I think it would be one of the first things I would check…)

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  3. What a great challenge! I do find it ironic that one of the most basic ideas (wear a mask) is so controversial. Who knew that public health would be a dealbreaker for some?

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  4. I love this challenge! This is exactly how to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship. This is the validation of ideas that blooms into success and innovation. I am not surprised that Covid has impacted the list of ideas. Innovation is often fueled by necessity and proximity. This freshman class, who missed out on high school graduation and now attend university under unusual circumstances, may well surprise us as they turn the negatives into positives for their lives. Great post and challenge. Kudos to the faculty for hosting such a great event!

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    1. it is a fun event, and for me it’s almost like a day off! one of the ideas presented is already a product (the germ buffer) – the student created it in high school and has sold quite a few of them. In general, though, most students view this as just another assignment…
      But I was happy to see the COVID-related products, at least it shows they put some thought into their idea…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. what a great exercise to begin, and clearly is getting them to think in new ways. products/ideas that are successful, fill a need and demand, and your students clearly see both elements are there, waiting to be filled. brilliant

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      1. Years ago, my friendโ€™s roommate came up with the idea of avocado hummus, now an actual product, but not his as he never followed up on his idea after his class

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  6. What an awesome initiative for new students at Villanova and elsewhere. Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship says it all. “Contactless Bathroom” has some appeal. Not sure of the ergonomics involved. NASA might have interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it is a fun way to get the creative juices flowing, if only for a week. Most students forget about their idea right after they present. If NASA gets involved, it would be the most expensive bathroom ever designed… ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. it is a fun event for the students, a chance to work in a small team, come up with an idea, do some research, and present it to the class. It seems as if the pandemic has created many necessities…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hey, this sounds like a great idea and helps to get people really thinking. I hope some of these ideas will actually get into a real business opportunity for someone. Have a great day Jim! ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ˜บ๐Ÿ‘

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