LeadDriver, a product that helps car dealers sell their inventory faster, won the $25,000 first-place prize at the third annual GW Business Plan Competition, held April 14-15 in Washington D.C at the GW School of Business.
Winning team members Anthony Shop, Daniel Zaslavsky, Thomas Sanchez and David Raffel, B.A. ’76, come from diverse professional backgrounds, including experience with car dealerships, software and entrepreneurship.
The money will help launch their start-up businesses.
We spoke to LeadDriver’s Anthony Shop about what it took to develop an idea into a product and impress the judges.
How much preparation did you (honestly) do for the competition?
Danny and Thomas have been working on this idea for almost a year, and I got involved late last year. We've traveled to Kansas City (five dealerships in Kansas City are using the software) and Danny and Dave have traveled to Washington DC to work on this idea and build on the plan. We committed a big chunk of our time over the last two months, especially.
How did you find your team mates?
We've all known one another for years. We're friends and we've worked on projects together, so it was a natural fit for us to do this together. Dave is a mentor for us in business, and we are fortunate he joined our team to help us think about how to grow our company.
What is the concept of LeadDriver and how did you come up with it?
LeadDriver helps car dealerships shorten the sales cycle and increase profitability. LeadDriver’s proprietary web-based software, DealerPrints™, is proven to increase an auto dealership’s lead-to-sale conversion rate by creating a trusted sales experience and shortening the sales cycle.
DealerPrints™ generates brochures that are branded to the dealership, the car, and the customer. A dealership’s sales staff accesses the system from the sales floor or the lot, enters unique information about the customer, and as a result generates a brochure that can be printed, emailed, or accessed online.
In short, the software reduces customers’ decision times.
Has the competition changed your perception of what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
This competition reinforced what I've learned at the GW School of Business and what we've learned in our other entrepreneurial endeavors. An entrepreneur has to build a strong team and leverage the strengths of that team.
This competition was awesome for us. We started with a good idea and we were having some success. But the process of the business plan competition pushed us and allowed us to develop our business plan much further. Thanks to the resources at the GW School of Business, ranging from the Office of Entrepreneurship to my New Venture Initiation professor, and the amazing mentor we were paired with, we came a long way.
What are your tips for success for teams next year?
First, you have to build a strong team - the managers and partners, as well as the experts and mentors you reach out to for advice. Second - practice, practice, practice.
What do you think set your team apart?
All of the ideas in this competition were great. Ours, frankly, probably wasn't even the most novel. But we heard from several people that we were different because we had a strong team whose members complimented one another. We also get along great, which helps a lot!
The Business Plan Competition finalists survived three rounds of competition over a two-month period, and were selected from an original pool of 112 entries, a record number of applicants.
During the final round on April 15, each team presented their business plans to a distinguished panel of entrepreneurs and business leaders in a format modeled after real-life venture capital presentations.
An additional total of $25,000 was awarded and split among three teams of runners-up.
Read more about the business plan competition and its sponsors here.