Blake Trippet had a very good year in 2010. Then a senior at the University of Oklahoma, Trippet was team leader for team UniPhi, which won the Undergraduate Division of the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup business plan competition. UniPhi then took second place in the Tri-State competition in Las Vegas, where Trippet also won the 90-second undergraduate elevator pitch.
UniPhi’s success in the Governor’s Cup earned Trippet, along with teammates Lucas Rice and Hamid Pezeshkian, $40,000 in cash awards. Their business plan outlined a technology that would permit health care providers to easily share information between health care databases.
Since then, Trippet has gone on to work for the investment firm, Goldman Sachs, before returning to Oklahoma 18 months ago to take a position with Oklahoma City-based MetaFund. He handles sourcing and due diligence of investment opportunities for MetaFund, as well as working closely with portfolio companies.
Trippet recently took time to answer questions about his Governor’s Cup experience. Here are excerpts:
Q: How did the Governor’s Cup experience and the networking it offered impact your career as you moved on into the business community after college?
A: There is no better way to learn business than trying to start one from the ground up. The Governor’s Cup experience required me to combine and utilize all of the things I learned in a classroom, including subjects I discovered I should have paid better attention to. Also, through building an advisory board, meeting with financial and technical experts across Oklahoma, cold calling people across the country for market research and practicing our presentation in front of anyone who would listen, we were able to network with numerous business leaders. This is a network I continue to use today. Finally, I would say that the confidence I obtained from creating a business plan and defending it inside the “shark tank” has been indispensable to my career to date.
Q: What was the highlight of the Governor’s Cup experience for you?
A: The highlight of the competition for me was working with the team. Hamid, Lucas and I spent our first meetings sitting in a room staring at a blank whiteboard, trying to figure out what we were going to do. We worked relentlessly, often until 3 or 4 a.m. and on weekends, to build the plan we finally submitted. We wanted our writing to be coherent and consistent so we actually group-wrote the entire plan. We also worked frequently with our faculty advisor, Dr. Lowell Busenitz, the OU CCEW staff and i2E, who were all extremely helpful. The teamwork skills developed through this process have been essential in everything I’ve done since the competition.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in the experience and why?
A: Our biggest challenge was determining the best method to present our business on paper, especially as it related to explaining our technology, which was fairly complicated. We went through multiple iterations of that section, eventually settling on a visual diagram that showed things much better than we could have ever penned it.
Q: What advice would you have for other students who may be working to write their business plan and put together a presentation and pitch for the competition?
Start as early as you possible can and pick solid team members that complement your skills well. Each team member should know every detail of every section. Proofread objectively and continuously. Have as many people read your plan as possible. Practice your presentation in front of anyone you can, as well. Think hard about what questions the judges will ask and be prepared for them. Prepare appendix slides to provide more in-depth information and to answer questions you expect to see. Be prepared for anything. We even had a judge checking us on his iPhone as we were presenting and answering questions.
Q: As you reflect on your GovCup experience, what comes to mind?
A: The Governor’s Cup was one of the best educational experiences I had in school, and I got paid to do it. I also got a free trip to Vegas and made several great friends through the process. My only regret is that I waited until my senior year to do it. I should have tried it my sophomore and junior years as well.