Business Idea Competition 2018

Date & Time:
Wednesday, May 2, 2018 -
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Soda Activity Center: Claeys Lounge, 1928 Saint Mary's Road, Moraga, CA 94575
View a map and get directions.

Join us for Saint Mary's College's 2018 Business Idea Competition on May 2, 2018 from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at the Soda Center. Finalists will have an opportunity to work with coaches, experienced entrepreneurs, and industry experts, and further develop their ideas and pitches before the competition. The objective of this Business Idea Competition is to help participants refine their ideas to get to the stage where they can actually present to investors.

This event will focus on showcasing business pitches from SMC undergraduate and graduate students and alumni from SEBA, SOLA, SOS, KSOE.

  1. Interested applicants are required to submit an application to Professor Berna Aksu by Monday, April 16. Only interested in watching? Just RSVP here to attend the event!
  2. 8-10 presenters will be selected as finalists among the applicants.
  3. Finalists are required to attend at least one, preferably both, coaching workshops on campus on Sunday, April 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and/or Friday, April 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have questions regarding this requirement, please contact Professor Aksu.
  4. Finalists will pitch their ideas at the competition and may use three PowerPoint slides as visual aids.
  5. The format is 2 minute pitch - 4 minute Q&A - 4 minute feedback.
  6. Presenters will receive feedback and votes from a panel of Keiretsu Forum investors and partners. Teh judges and audience's votes will determine the winners.

Note: This is a great opportunity for even early stage business ideas; you don't have to be funded, in revenue, or even be incorporated. The application form will guide you and help you think through the relevant aspects of your idea.

City National2018 cash prizes for 1st and 2nd place are offered by event sponsor City National Bank
2017 AWARDS included the following:
*All the finalists presenting received a 25% grant off the price of the Entrepreneur Academy
1st Place - $3,000 Cash Prize, 4 hours of legal counsel (2 hours of partner time at Hanson Bridgett from Eric Clarke and 2 hours of partner time from Neil Kripalani, Esq. ) valued at $1,870, a scholarship for the Forum's Entrepreneur Academy valued at $1,549, and the coveted opportunity to present at an upcoming Angel Capital Expo - a Keiretsu Forum premier gathering of the angel capital community, a opportunity valued $2,850. Total award package valued at $9,269.
2nd Place - $1,500 Cash Prize, 4 hours of legal counsel (2 hours of partner time at Hanson Bridgett from Eric Clarke and 2 hours of partner time from Neil Kripalani, Esq. ) valued at $1,870, and the coveted opportunity to present at PitchForce, an event platform for early stage ventures. Total award package valued at $3,370.
People's Choice Award - $1,000 Cash Prize donated by the Stull family, voted on via text by the audience at the event.

5:30 p.m. Registration and Networking
6:00 p.m. Welcome
6:15 p.m. Introductions, Rules, and Format Review
6:45 p.m. Presentations
8:15 p.m. Award Announcement and Networking

Appetizers and drinks will be served.
This is a business casual event. Please come in appropriate attire.

Free for SMC current students, staff/faculty, presenters and Keiretsu Forum members
$10 for Saint Mary's College alumni
$20 for Saint Mary's College friends/community members


Randy Williams founded Keiretsu Forum in September 2000 to provide a disciplined and structured approach to angel investing.  Mr. Williams’s passion for investing and bringing together like-minded community leaders has created a powerful and giving environment for entrepreneurs. With over 2,800 angel investor members throughout 53 chapters on 4 continents Keiretsu Forum is the largest angel investment community in the world.  There have been 1000 fundings since inception.  Keiretsu Forum, headquartered in San Francisco, has offices throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and India.  Mr. Williams is also a General Partner of Keiretsu Capital.  Keiretsu Capital’s mission is to invest in its best of breed companies with the world’s leading angel organizations.  
Mr. Williams has 35 years of marketing, finance, and real estate experience.  He was co-founder and director of Diablo Valley Bank and was President of Pacific Union Commercial Brokerage, founder of the Lamorinda Bank, and Managing Director of Kennedy-Wilson International, an international real estate investment company.  Mr. Williams is chairman of the advisory board for Heritage Bank of Commerce with offices throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mr. Williams is a frequent guest speaker at investment conferences, leading universities, and business schools on alternative asset investment and entrepreneurialism. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California Berkeley.  He has a passion for swimming, enjoying swimming in oceans and bays around the world, and is a past world record holder in master’s swimming.  He currently holds 7 San Francisco Olympic Club swimming records, and enjoys recognition as a member of the Olympic Club Hall of Fame for the 1980s water polo team.  


Melissa Marsh Ross is a technology executive and angel investor with significant expertise in AI/analytics, SaaS, and healthcare.  Over the last year, she co-founded and served as Chief Operating Officer at Bishop Ranch Intelligence Innovation Accelerator (BRIIA), a business accelerator program in San Ramon supporting start-ups that use Artificial Intelligence.    At BRIIA, she created and managed the operating plan to launch the business and recruited over 70 start-ups to apply to the program. 

Prior to BRIIA, Melissa has spent more than two decades leading growth in healthcare analytics companies. Most recently, she spent more than ten years at MedeAnalytics, the largest pure-play healthcare analytics and big data firm, while they grew from start-up to over $100M in revenue. During her tenure there, Melissa was involved in leading almost every aspect of growth, including VP-level positions in operations, engineering, sales strategy, and business development.

Melissa earned an Executive MBA from Saint Mary's College of California, where she also serves as an Advisor for the M.S. in Business Analytics program and is an active member of the alumni community.   Melissa has an undergraduate degree in Mathematics with a Computer Science minor from Loyola University Maryland, where she serves as an Advisor to the M.S. in Data Science program. 
Melissa was first introduced to the Keiretsu Forum through Saint Mary’s and has been an active Keiretsu Forum member since early 2017.  

Shirley Gee was a Department Head and Executive Senior Staff member for over 20 years with Stanford University's research laboratory.  She is:

  • an alum from St. Mary's College with an undergrad degree in Business Management and Executive MBA.  
  • an Accredited Investor with specialty in life science, medical devices, IoT, and renewable energy.

Her current positions consist of: 

  • the Chief Strategy Officer and Board of Director at DeltaTrak,  a business serving the Life Science, Aerospace, and Food industries; 
  • Founder and Managing Partner with Angel Plus, LLC, a due diligence firm for start-up's getting ready for capitalization; 
  • Senior Venture Partner with YStrategies, a corporation driving national laboratory technologies in the renewable energy and IoT space into the marketplace.
  • Technical Advisory Committee Member of the California Energy Commission's CalSeed Project deploying $25M to start-up's in the renewable fenergy, storage and conservation space.
  • lecturer and mentor for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Entrepreneur Academy and for UC/Davis' Entrepreneurial Academy where she works with our nation's scientists to move their technology into the marketplace.

Eric Clarke is a partner at Hanson Bridgett’s corporate department whose practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments, private investment funds, and general company representation. Eric regularly represents businesses and private equity funds in connection with formation, investments, acquisitions, dispositions, mergers, recapitalizations, equity and debt financings, joint ventures, strategic alliances, and other activities, as well as representing financial institutions in connection with fund investments, co-investments, and secondary LP interest transfers.

Eric also advises clients in connection with a wide range of general business and commercial matters, including commercial contracts, licensing arrangements, employment and consulting arrangements, compliance matters, and corporate governance.

Eric has closed over 80 Merger and Acquisition transactions in a wide variety of industry fields, including Software, IT Services, Manufacturing, Medical Devices, Shipping and Transportation, Logistics, Financial Services, Agriculture, Cloud Computing, and the Automotive Industry. Eric has a J.D. from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law (1993), and a B.A. from St. Mary's College of California.

Adam Henderson has spent his career at the intersection of technology and real estate. He has been an early investor and advisor in a number of companies with successful exits including an IPO. Adam is a founding member of Keiretsu Forum, he is currently the Director of International/ Special Projects and serves on the Keiretsu Capital real estate fund. 

Adam is a Founder and COO of a recently launched technology company, deploying a safety App for schools, banks, and other facilities. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame. Adam spent early days marketing circuit board components in Silicon Valley. He transitioned to advisory and transactions in commercial real estate on behalf of institutional entities, family offices, and high net worth investors.  

Adam took advantage of the market plunge and formation of the RTC in the early 90s. As the President and CEO of Sleepy Hollow Inv. Co., Adam has built a large portfolio of commercial real estate assets over 20+ years. He developed and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for an early successful technology incubator that included an IPO and successful M&A and funding for the incubator companies.


This is a Center for Regional Economy event hosted in partnership with Stull Grant for Entrepreneurship and the Keiretsu Forum.

About Saint Mary's College Center for the Regional Economy

The Center for the Regional Economy (CRE) brings together faculty, students and alumni at Saint Mary’s College with business, governmental and non-profit groups in the San Francisco East Bay, the Greater San Francisco Bay Area in support of an economy that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

It carries out research, both academic and applied, on the issues related to its mission, and provides access to research results as broadly as possible. It provides consultancy and advisory services to its constituents leveraging the expertise of Saint Mary’s faculty and students. It organizes events that bring together internal and external constituencies for shared discussion of topics of joint interest.

About Keiretsu Forum

Keiretsu Forum LogoKeiretsu Forum is a worldwide network of capital, resources and deal flow with 53 chapters on 4 continents. Keiretsu Forum members invest in high-quality, diverse investment opportunities. Keiretsu Forum and Keiretsu Capital (the exclusive worldwide fund partner of Keiretsu Forum) are ranked as the most active venture investors in the USA. The Keiretsu community is also strengthened through its involvement in social and charitable activities.

Questions about the event? Interested in sponsorship opportunities?  Contact Dr. Berna Aksu.