The team, made up of Jay Brown of Roswell, Joyce Bone of Norcross and Nedko Hristov of Atlanta, will be touting a website design company they built almost two years ago in Kennesaw called SoVerse, short for ‘social universe.’ Professor Dr. Charles Hofer, whose teams have won more competitions than anyone else in the world, is the team’s adviser.
Brown said SoVerse is a quicker, easier, more reliable, cheaper and more inclusive alternative to traditional website development companies. Brown said he and the other two team members in SoVerse are able to take all of the various components of a business website that can often be very expensive individually — such as a shopping cart — and put them together in an easy-to-use platform with a low price.
The whole idea came about when Bone went to Brown to see if he could develop a website for her company,
Millionairemom.com. Brown said he had already configured three or four websites for colleagues, so at that point he realized that the same things he was doing over and over again that seemed to be needed among small business owners could be turned into a great business idea.
Bone said that before working with Brown, she paid $5,000 for her website to be built and then paid $45 a month in Web hosting fees and an additional $35 a month to have an online shopping cart so that visitors could make purchases on the site. And even after paying those fees, Bone said she still had no idea how to operate or maintain her website because it was so complicated.
With SoVerse, however, Brown said he can build a website quickly and efficiently that offers 50 applications that he has tested and found work best together and can easily be maintained by the client. Brown said he and Hofer, who teaches strategy and entrepreneurship at KSU’s Coles College of Business, asked Bone to join the team because she would be great in sales and came from a business background, and Bone asked Hristov to join because of his IT business background.
While they each have their own titles within SoVerse — Brown is listed as founder and general manager, Bone is director of sales and Hristov is director of operations — they are all successful in their own companies. Brown is a senior manager for AT&T; Bone, along with Millionaire
mom.com, is also an author, speaker and radio show host; and Hristov is project leader for a health insurance software and IT company called Connecture.
So far, Brown said they have been able to build more than 150 websites for small businesses, which constitute 98 percent of the market.
Hofer said that he has won so many business competitions through the years, he is automatically invited to send a team to 11 of the 13 largest competitions in the world. So when the SoVerse team won Hofer’s pitch competition in September, he chose them for the Stockholm competition.
For the competition, titled the Idea to Product Global Competition, the KSU team will be competing against teams from other universities, including Imperial College of the United Kingdom, Keio University of Japan, Monterrey Tech of Mexico, RWTH Aachen University of Germany, the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship of Sweden, and American universities Texas A&M University, University of Texas and Purdue University.
Hofer said Texas is well-known for their teams, as Texas has a much friendlier startup environment than Georgia, providing much more in terms of venture capital and state government support. Even still, Hofer, who was previously training teams and teaching at the University of Georgia before joining the KSU faculty nearly five years ago, said his Georgian teams have won 49 of 250 of the largest competitions over the past 20 years, while Texas teams come in second in the high 30s, and San Diego State comes in third with a little under 20.
Hofer said he feels his team has a strong chance to win, but exposure to major business players and global startup company ideas from brilliant students all across the world make even getting into the competition worthwhile. The winner will be announced at a dinner in the Vasa Museum in Stockholm on Nov. 19.
“Many of the judges are venture capitalists, and many business ideas presented in these competitions have been funded by the judges,” Hofer said. “Many of these ideas have become businesses, especially in terms of medical devices. Being at these competitions just gives you a very optimistic view of the future, to know that so many intelligent people are coming up with all of these amazing ideas.”
Follow Katy Ruth Camp on Twitter at twitter.com/KatyRuthC.