Phillip Harnsberger ’00 had never done any public speaking when he made the closing presentation at the 2000 Central Coast Venture Forum May 25. The venture capitalists and entrepreneurs present packed the room to hear about QuizCore.com, a proposed Web site intended to help college students study.
“I was pretty nervous — I was by far the youngest presenter there,” he recalls.
Despite his youth, Phillip’s talk was well received. Commentator Ryan Hagen described it on the dbusiness.com Web site as “one of the most popular presentations” at the forum. Noting that Phillip is seeking $2 million to create the site and start up a business, Hagen concludes, “Judging by the applause the young entrepreneur received, he just might get it.”
Although the idea began as an assignment in a class on entrepreneurship taught by Professor David Newton, it may become a real enterprise. Phillip and his partner, Jared WIlliams ’01, are actively seeking capital, and they have already purchased the domain name (QuizCore.com) and begun work on the Web site.
They developed the concept with fellow economics and business majors Jay Akins ’01 and Kris Gulatt ’01 when they were required to write a business plan for a start-up company.
They targeted the college market because most students are connected to the Internet and spend a significant amount of time online.
Students looking for help could open the site, type in the title and author of their text book, and download a variety of aids, including virtual quizzes and flash cards. QuizCore.com would be textbook- and chapter-specific with a searchable database.
The group entered their plan in a competition on campus judged by local business people. They finished second, and Professor Newton encouraged them to submit the project to the NASDAQ Venture Challenge 2000.
One of 135 teams who entered the competition — and the only undergraduates — they finished as one of 20 semi-finalists. They put together a 20-minute Power Point presentation for the final round at San Diego State University. Students from around the world participated, networking with executives from major corporations.
Then they were invited to make a presentation at the Central Coast Venture Forum, which Westmont co-sponsors. The other speakers were seasoned entrepreneurs with years of experience.
Neither Phillip nor Jared came to Westmont intending to become entrepreneurs. They chose to major in business because the discipline was practical and gave them flexibility.
“I wanted to be able to use my college major,” Phillip explains. “I thought business would be a good safety net. But then I discovered I like the creativity of start-ups, and the class on entrepreneurship became my favorite.”
A professionally sponsored body-boarder and surfer who traveled to Indonesia with Body Boarding magazine in June, Phillip earned the prestigious Faculty Research Award at Westmont as the graduating senior with the highest grade-point average during the entire college career.
Jared, who enjoys problem-solving, had an interest in investment and portfolio management before getting a taste for entrepreneurship. “I like the process of developing new ideas and fixing ones that aren’t efficient,” he notes.
A rugby player who graduates in December, Jared will lead Vespers at Westmont next year and continue his internship as a youth leader at a local church.
While other graduates are looking for their first job, Phillip and Jared are seeking their first $2 million in funding. And they just might get it.