Stanford students compete to hear the words, ‘You’re hired!’

Jan. 28, 2011, 2:59 a.m.

Eight Stanford undergraduates will soon face off in a Stanford-produced version of the TV show “The Apprentice,” competing in business situations for a final prize.

Stanford students compete to hear the words, 'You’re hired!'
The Apprentice, which features two teams of Stanford undergraduates, is set to air this spring on the University television network and online. (COURTESY OF KEVIN HARDEKOPF)

The show is a collaboration between the Stanford Cardinal Broadcasting Network (SCBN) and the Stanford Pre-Business Association (SPBA), the group of undergraduates who coined the idea.

Following roughly the same format as the popular NBC show, each week the teams will be introduced to a challenge, develop and execute a business plan and be judged on their success, said assistant producer and SPBA member Matt Ikeler ’14.

“This is a business-related show,” said Michael Wheet ’11, SCBN station manager. “One of the goals is to give students the business experience in a competitive environment, to see what the real business world is like.”

Before each competition, the two teams of four will have access to a team of advisers consisting of M.B.A. students from the Graduate School of Business, local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Stanford’s “Apprentice” has already gained the support of Silicon Valley by procuring sponsorships from Bling Nation and Mohr Davidow Ventures. Mohr Davidow Ventures’ client base of angel investors will help develop or participate in the challenges, while Bling Nation will help with transferring the funds that teams win in challenges.

With contestants selected just last week, the producers are still developing three to five weeklong challenges, the first of which is set to occur during “Entrepreneurship Week” from Feb. 23 to March 2, Ikeler said.

Applicants were required to submit a one-minute video showcasing their talents. In reviewing the applications, SPBA was looking for people who had camera appeal, said executive producer and SPBA board member Chase Harmon ’13.

“My friends came at me with a video camera and said, ‘You’re going to do it,’” said applicant Kevin Shutzberg ’14, who was eventually chosen as a contestant for the “techie” team.

Successful video applicants were offered interviews and evaluated for their ability to think outside the box and be part of a team, Harmon said.

The producers chose to focus on a team format. “Students can align with their self-designated side and see how each side of the mind comes to work and how different approaches come to be,” Harmon said.

While details of the grand prize have yet to be determined, Harmon said the current $30,000 in accrued prize money might go to companies to sponsor summer internships for the winning team. Contestants could also win prizes for each challenge, such as golf outings or lunches with big Silicon Valley thinkers.

Seven SPBA associates will begin production in February. SCBN provided the necessary equipment, crew and distribution and has given SPBA creative liberty in editing the footage, with no cap on the number or length of episodes.

Both organizations are optimistic that the first episode will premiere early spring quarter on SCBN’s Channel 5 and website. SPBA is working with MTVU to get a broadcasting deal.

The association is confident about reaching “all members of Silicon Valley interested…by the amazing Stanford student potential showcased by the show,” Harmon said.

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