Skip to main content

Bronco Mini-‘Shark Tank’: See Local Entrepreneurs Prepare for the Big Pitch

Lovers of the popular television show “Shark Tank,” in which would-be moguls pitch their business ideas to no-nonsense investors, will get a little taste of that on campus on Tuesday.

The Strategic Growth Capital Partnership at the College of Business and Economics will host Investor Pitch Rehearsals from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in the Executive Education Room 4100 in the Micron Business and Economics Building.

Representatives from five Idaho companies whose missions range from streamlining financial records, to making funeral planning easier, to helping parents track their kids’ school buses, will present their ideas. Experts from the financial field will critique.

The presentations are dress rehearsals for something closer to the real “Shark Tank,” with real money on the line, the 34th Annual Investor’s Choice Venture Capital Conference in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8-9. The companies — plus four others from Idaho and a California company interested in relocating to Idaho — will be among 29 companies vying for investors at the Utah event.

The companies presenting on Tuesday are participants in the Strategic Growth Capital Partnership, a new program that pairs the College of Business and Economics with a nonprofit Utah company that provides mentorship and training to emerging entrepreneurs.

Participation in the program is free for businesses, though they pay a fee to participate in the Investor’s Choice event.

“We only ask that if you have success with your venture and make your millions, that you come back and be a mentor,” said John Williamson, program organizer. He joined Boise State as an executive in residence in June, 2017.

Photo of John Williamson
John Williamson

Among other skills, the program helps entrepreneurs learn to tell their business story in clear and convincing ways — to give their best rendition of the classic “elevator pitch.”

Working with emerging companies, said Williamson, who spent nearly three decades in the commercial banking and finance industry, is a lot of fun. It’s a chance, he said, to work with entrepreneurs in their earliest, most optimistic stages.

“You get to see these companies before anyone else does. To me, that’s the bigger story. You can say you knew them when.”

Williamson wants Tuesday’s event to spread the word about the program to emerging Idaho businesses, as well as to attract potential interns. Six Boise State students currently participate in the Cooperative Venturing Internship Program. It offers hands-on experience and a chance to network with local companies. Interns are not paid, but are eligible for college credit.

The program, said Williamson, seeks interns who are seniors or graduate students from all colleges and fields of study. Internships require a minimum time commitment of three hours each week. Additional time may be required for follow-up calls and assisting at events.

“We also consider exceptions to grade level in instances where the student has demonstrated good performance in a highly disciplined field of study or extra-curricular activity such as hard sciences, performing arts, athletics, and work experience,” said Williams.

Adam Still, a junior originally from Kansas City, Missouri, is double majoring in finance and accounting. He is in the program’s first group of interns. He came to Boise State as a “non-traditional student” after dancing professionally with the Colorado Ballet for a decade. He will participate in Tuesday’s practice as part of the team for Applied Apps, a financial technology start-up focusing on the mortgage industry.

Photo of Boise State student Adam Still
Adam Still

He’s already seen a connection between the creative world of performance and the creative world of business.

“It’s been great to be a fly on the wall, getting to hear the mentors, getting to hear pitches. The immediate feedback is not unlike dance. You have notes and corrections every day,” said Still.

Interning with the program, he said, has broadened his knowledge of the kinds of jobs that are available in his field.

“I didn’t even know certain kinds of companies existed,” he said. “This helps you peel another layer away, and get a macro view of professions.”

The most interesting task for him thus far, has been sitting in on meetings with business owners and mentors, and having a chance to comment himself.

“Just being around people who know more than you do in an environment that’s really welcoming,” he said, “I’ve already made newbie mistakes, but everyone is kind.  And they want you to succeed.”

Those interested in learning more about the program, either as an intern or an entrepreneur, should contact John Williamson at

Tuesday’s event is open to the public, but seating is limited.