To get a business off the ground, you are going to need some funding — that is why top university student startups competed Saturday in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge.
More than $100,000 was awarded to the students launching their own businesses. A BYU student took the grand prize of $40,000 with his business SimpleCitizen, an online service to help people get green cards.
Four U companies made it to the final eight and were awarded $1,000 each. One of those teams, Blyncsy, also won the “Biggest Impact” award, for their product Blyncsy, a device that analyzes foot and car traffic. Mark Pittman, an MBA and law school student at the U who worked on the team, said the event helped the members network.
Funding in Utah for developing projects is hard to come by, Pittman said, which is why competitions are important to startup companies.
“Business plan competitions are really the critical bridge between an idea and conceptualization and actually being able to raise money,” he said.
One of the purposes of business plan competitions is to provide learning opportunities for entrepreneur students, said Nick Beynon, a senior in marketing and co-chair of the Utah Entrepreneur Series. He has seen the competition help students “hone down their pitches and learn what needs to be changed.”
The Utah Entrepreneur Series is a student-run group that hosts business plan competitions both exclusively for the U and for all Utah universities.
The Utah Entrepreneur Challenge has taken place since 2001, but this year the group tried to make the event more public and showcase the top 20 teams, Beynon said. Funding for the competition came primarily from a $100,000 donation from Zions Bank, a continual partner since 2006.
Mike Winder, director of entrepreneurship programs at Zions Bank and a judge at the event, loves seeing the energy and excitement in university students. He said the U, with its Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, is a leader across the nation.
“Students are always on the cutting edge of innovation,” he said. “Student entrepreneurs specifically are well-placed for success in the 21st century.”