Scholar Spotlight: Luke Liu

 It started with Lego building blocks.

“I liked playing with them when I was little,” said Northwestern University senior Luke Liu. “I guess I’ve always liked building things.”

Now, 17 years later, those plastic bricks are a symbol for something much larger – a passion for building businesses that won him over $15,000 in two days.

Liu came in second place for Northwestern University’s Venture Challenge (an $8,500 prize) and then became the first undergraduate to win NU’s Kellogg cup (a $7,000 prize) by pitching his business idea, TicketSnagger (an online startup that would allow buyers to set prices for which they would buy tickets) to a panel of venture capitalists, business lawyers, executives and investors.

The NUVS wasn’t bad,” he said. “It was nerve-wracking, though, since I was the second to last person to go. I had no idea what was going on. But apparently it was fine.”

Liu then received an invitation to compete in the Kellogg Cup, a similar competition normally only open to Northwestern Graduate students as part of his NUVC second place victory.

“I was a lot more nervous for the Kellogg cup,” said Liu. “I was up against all grad students. I sat way in the back of the room during the awards because I thought I had no chance. When they called my name it was surreal.”

Not only was Liu the first undergraduate to win the Kellogg Cup, but the only solo entry in the competition. He even beat the team that took the first place victory from him at NUVC the day before.

“It meant a lot,” he said. “Unfortunately I’m kind of at a dead-end with TicketSnagger. I’m going to need a lot more money to advertise and really get the name out there.”

Liu got the idea for TicketSnagger as the result of the end of another business he was running. Liu sold Every Day Energy, an energy powder company he had been running since summer 2010, for $25,000 in February. He saved most the money, but used some to buy Bulls season tickets.

“I got frustrated when I was trying to sell some of the tickets on StubHub and Craigslist,” he said. “So I thought a reverse secondary market that’s demand driven would work much better.”

So did the judges. For Liu, this may be the beginning of a long and successful entrepreneurial career.

“I don’t want to work for anyone else,” he said. “It’s why I became a caddie at Inverness [Golf Club]. I could work when I wanted. I just want to build businesses and run them. And I’m extremely fortunate to have earned the scholarship and be in the best possible position to do that when I graduate.”