Team members are Shelby Baldwin (middle), Brandon Johns (left) and Calvin Waddy (right).

By: Southeastern Conference (SEC) Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Mississippi State University won first place in the 4th annual SEC Student Pitch Competition, held this year at the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business at Auburn University on October 6-7. The winning team is comprised of Shelby Baldwin, Brandon Johns and Calvin Waddy, and they pitched Buzzbassador, a software that automates back-end services to help brands create ambassador and influencer programs. The University of Missouri finished second and Texas A&M University finished third.

“I’m speechless at the moment. What always strikes me at this competition is just how good the teams are. The top three this year were incredibly impressive, and the fact that they’ve built businesses that are generating revenue and have found real market needs is astounding,” said Eric Hill, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach in the College of Business at Mississippi State University. “You can’t make up what they’re doing. It doesn’t happen without a lot of work, and it’s humbling to see that recognized. I’m glad that this great team has been successful.”

The SEC Student Pitch Competition provides teams of SEC students at the undergraduate or graduate level a platform to showcase their ideas for ground-breaking products and services to a panel of judges. New this year was an informal elevator pitch challenge, during which teams had one minute to describe their idea to internal voters. Shelby Baldwin from Mississippi State won the challenge with the quick overview of Buzzbassador.

“I’ve had an amazing experience at the competition,” said Baldwin. “It’s been inspiring to see all of the amazing businesses coming out of the SEC, and it was humbling and incredibly exciting to be voted the winner of the elevator pitch.”

Also new for 2019 was an app development challenge. The university team members were split up to form six new teams charged with creating an app and earning “investments” from the SEC advisors in attendance. The teams had two hours to brainstorm and design posters and one minute to outline their app. The winning app, MerchMe!, connects consumers with their favorite street vendor’s locations and menus, and was born out of team member experiences in large cities like Shanghai. The collaborative group who created MerchMe! included Baldwin (Mississippi State), Keturah Finch (University of Arkansas), Sani Ghulamani (University of Alabama), and Kayne Lynn (LSU).

The featured pitch competition began on Monday morning with each team presenting to two different sets of judges. After the initial pitches, those judges advanced three teams to the finals, where they presented later the same day to a separate panel. Nine individuals aided in the selection of this years’ winners. The judges – including SEC alumni – work primarily in the business sector, and included:

  • John F. Bright, Founder, President, and Chief Information Officer of Bright Investments
  • Gregory D. Cessna, CEO and Director of Consumers Fresh Produce
  • Miller Beale Girvin, CEO of Alabama Capital Network
  • Robin Hunt, Co-Founder of ThinkData Solutions Inc.
  • Cade Joiner, Founder of Shred-X
  • Justin Lambert, Founder of The Mint Julep Boutique
  • Rashim McKinney, Managing Partner of Gibraltar Solomon
  • Mickey Millsap, Founder of Redhawk VC
  • Boyd Stephens, Founder of Netelysis

The SEC Student Pitch Competition was first held in conjunction with the SEC Symposium in 2016 and Texas A&M University took home first place. Other winners are the University of Arkansas in 2017 and the University of South Carolina in 2018.

The 2020 SEC Student Pitch Competition will take place next fall at the University of Georgia.

A full list of winners for the 2019 SEC Student Pitch Competition is below.

Student Pitch Competition Results

First Place Team: Buzzbassador, Mississippi State University, Shelby Baldwin, Brandon Johns and Calvin Waddy

Second Place Team: Calving Technologies, LLC, University of Missouri, Libby Martin

Third Place Team: LCLIP, Texas A&M University, Ahad Azimuddin

Elevator Challenge Results

Winner: Shelby Baldwin, Mississippi State University, Buzzbassador

Collaborative App Challenge Results

MerchMe! — Shelby Baldwin (Mississippi State University), Keturah Finch (University of Arkansas), Sani Ghulamani (University of Alabama), and Kayne Lynn (LSU)