Get Seeded Program Funds Student Entrepreneurs

Got ideas? Pitch them and you might earn some funding.

Each month, the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute hosts Get Seeded, a program that awards funding to student-developed business ideas.

Over the past three years, Zions Bank has donated approximately $150,000 annually to this Lassonde Institute program. Based off milestone funding, students can apply and ask for specific amounts they need to launch their project.

This month’s event will take place on the 27th, said Ryan Ferrin, an MBA student at the U and co-chair of Get Seeded.

“The purpose of these funds is to help students develop businesses,” Ferrin said.

Students can propose an idea or present a prototype and be ready to launch a Kickstarter campaign, an online community where entrepreneurs can receive investor funding.

Andrew Titensor, a recent graduate of the MBA program, participated in the December 2014 pitch event. He used his $2,500 award to put his minimalist wallet company, Svelte Wallets, on Kickstarter. The campaign reached its initial goal in the first two days and raised a total of $29,000.

Titensor said the money was integral to start his company and the program helped him learn to present an idea in a professional setting.

The Get Seeded process begins with an application, where students explain their idea and how they will use the funding to promote their business. From there, a panel of judges, including Ferrin and members of the U’s entrepreneur club, narrow down the selection. A final pitch event of 10 students is held and is open to the public. The final decision is up to the audience. Usually 90 percent receive a resounding yes to be funded.

Titensor was grateful to get feedback from judges as well as the public during his pitch.

“I think the peer review was important because that is potential audience feedback about your product,” he said.

Of the 100 applications, 48 were funded last year, Ferrin said. Ideas come from students with all backgrounds and range from footless pants to backpacks that convert to gym bags. Because it’s the only competition of its kind in Utah, students from a variety of universities compete.

Not all projects can be labeled a success, however. Eric Smith, a senior in entrepreneurship, had an idea for a self-regulating chicken coop that opens and closes the door appropriately. Smith’s brother told him about Get Seeded the same day applications were due. He applied and ended up winning $1,500 to create a prototype, but since then his experience has been a little unexpected.

“This project so far has not been very successful at all,” Smith said. “But the point isn’t necessarily succeeding … because I got funded, it validated that I was able to come up with an idea that I could do something with.”

Ferrin said the goal is to help students create businesses, and provide opportunity.

“It can be really, really helpful no matter what your idea is,” he said. “Even if we weren’t giving money, I think this would be a super valuable experience where students can practice pitching to investors. It’s a safe environment, and it’s not as intense.”

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@carolyn_webber