On Monday April 8th 2013, students chatted excitedly amongst themselves as they waited in line to register to pitch their business ideas at the CCEI Startup Challenge Pitch Competition. The large classroom in the Gentry Building was nearly filled to capacity with over 60 registered teams and students who attended to watch as audience members. The energy in the room before the competition started was tangible—all of the teams were interested in winning one (or more) of the ten $1000 prizes.
CCEI Startup Challenge Pitch Competition
Prior to the event, participants were able to see five of the ten award categories, but remaining categories were intentionally withheld to add to the excitement of the night. This competition was open to all UConn students (all majors, levels, and campuses), which was clearly reflected in the broad array of ideas that were presented. There were no stipulations about what the business ideas had to be about, and teams were encouraged to get creative. The organizers and judges for this event included former UConn student entrepreneurs who founded their businesses while still students at UConn. It was the intent of the CCEI (University of Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, at the UConn School of Business) for this event to be young, fun, and student-led to add to the sense of camaraderie and creativity.
Teams and individual competitors raced through 90-second pitches. Over the course of four hours, judges listened to and questioned the presenters about their ideas, which ranged from gadgets and websites to new devices and household products. Kathryn Huntington ’06, Administrative Coordinator for the CCEI who served as lead organizer and a judge of the event said, “It was amazing to see all the different ideas that students have and are working on—it is our intent that by hosting this type of event that these ideas will be developed into actual businesses and spur economic development at UConn. During the breaks, you could see teams seeking each other out, exchanging contact information, and starting to talk to each other about teaming up and working on projects—this was exactly what we were hoping for.”
CCEI Startup Challenge Strategy Competition
On a college campus, ideas are sprung constantly, but not all of them come to fruition. Events like the CCEI Startup Challenge encourage students to really develop these ideas, and see how far they can take them. The impressive turnout at this event shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is growing at UConn. Participating teams were invited to take their ideas even further by participating in the other element of the CCEI Startup Challenge: a business strategy competition, which culminates during the last week of classes. It is the CCEI’s intention to offer programming that helps identify student entrepreneurs and bring them together, and to get them to think creatively about new business ideas. “The type of networking and collaboration we saw at this event among the participating teams was exciting, refreshing, and infectious—we hope that these students with the ‘entrepreneurial bug’ will help spread the word to their friends and classmates, and create a real network of collaboration among all of these bright-minded and creative individuals,” said Huntington.
Details on the Startup Challenge Initiative and the upcoming written plan competition can be found on the CCEI Startup Challenge Website.
Entrepreneurship at UConn
“The competition was a great way to get students to start refining their ideas, and preparing for questions they might hear from future investors,” says event organizer and judge Nadav Ullman ’12. “The cash incentive was a great way to get them to come out and pitch, but I think the learning experience was the most valuable part of the event.” Students with entrepreneurial ideas are encouraged to seek out faculty and professional mentors that can serve as resources and guide them through the process of taking something from the idea phase and turning it into a viable business venture.
Organizations like the CCEI, the Office of Technology Commercialization, the Office of Economic Development, and the Innovation East Hub all serve as resources for UConn students, faculty, and staff who are working on developing their entrepreneurial ideas. Event co-organizer and judge Mike Parelli ’12 encourages student entrepreneurs: “We were really surprised with both the quantity of pitches, and the quality. From various types of devices to the next Zumba, we had some great ideas that are being worked on right here at UConn. Our hope is to see these teams follow through and enter some of the other competitions that are happening.”
The CCEI hopes that the ten winners of the CCEI Startup Challenge Pitch Competition will utilize these resources and actualize their ideas. CCEI Executive Director Christopher Levesque ’87 extends congratulations to all of the winning teams and hopes to see written plans for many of the pitched ideas in the upcoming strategy competition. Judge Tom Bachant ’12 sums up this sentiment: “Students really got a chance to show off the passion they had for their ideas. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.”
CCEI Startup Challenge Pitch Competition Winners:
- Best Pitch Presentation: Spine Fuze
- Best Product Invention Idea: MacroPod
- Best Mobile App Idea: KualaApp
- Most Socially Responsible Idea: The 589 Project
- Best College Targeted Idea: Meals to Money
- Best Website Idea: PartsTech
- Most Fundable Idea: Acetone Breath Analyzer
- Most Likely to Go Viral: Picture of the Day
- Best “Green” Idea: Graphine Toothpaste
- Judges’ Favorite: Advanced Column Solutions
CCEI Startup Challenge Pitch Competition Organizers and Judges:
- Tom Bachant ’12; Co-Founder, Sobrio
- Adam Boyajian ’12; Co-Founder, Buses2
- Kathryn Huntington ’06, Administrative Coordinator, CCEI
- Mike Parelli ’12, Co-Founder, Buses 2
- Nadav Ullman ’12, Co-Founder, Sobrio
See photos from the event at http://uconn.biz/11ef0cg