Phoebe Punzalan is the associate director of entrepreneurship at NYU Stern's W. R. Berkley Innovation Lab, where she oversees operations for the $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge. Phoebe's previous experience includes higher education administration and healthcare management. She is an alumna of both the College of Arts & Science and the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Phoebe shares the latest on the entrepreneurs challenge. 

Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do.

In no other business discipline is the importance of teamwork more strongly felt than in entrepreneurship. Just take a look at the famous duo behind Apple: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. One a charismatic visionary and the other an engineering mastermind, these founders worked together to build one of today’s most influential companies.

The value of teamwork is not so much in the additional manpower (although that’s important, too) but in the collective abilities and complementary skill sets of the team members. A 2014 article in Entrepreneur magazine suggests four different roles that every founding team should have, while Fast Company insists that six are required for success. Quibble all you want about the magic number, but the takeaway here? Teams with a range of abilities can accomplish much more.

Teams with a range of abilities can accomplish much more.

The $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge encourages just this kind of collaboration. Every fall, the Challenge hosts a Teammate Hunt to connect those with venture ideas with those who have unique skills to contribute. And at each of the five boot camps we hold annually, we weave in hands-on exercises where participants work in groups to apply the day's lessons to real examples. In fact, at our most recent boot camp, competing teams helped to critique each other’s pitches! These activities help team members understand how to leverage each other's strengths to tackle the many obstacles they will inevitably face in the startup lifecycle.

And there is no better place for team formation than at a university like NYU, where ventures can assemble teams that are truly interdisciplinary and incredibly diverse. All of this year’s semi-finalist ventures have teams of at least two founders, and many have three or more.  Additionally, half of the 34 teams include founders from two or more NYU schools.

Together the 117 semi-finalists represent 14 NYU divisions including NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai.

Together the 117 semi-finalists represent 14 NYU divisions including NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. The $300K Entrepreneurs Challenge takes great pride in not only fostering the next generation of entrepreneurs but also in bringing together students, alumni, faculty, and researchers from all reaches of NYU.

We wish today’s competing semi-finalists the best of luck and look forward to seeing which teams advance to the Final Pitch-Off on May 5th. Stay tuned!