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Innovation Challenge Fosters Creative Ideas
April 6, 2017
Nine new venture teams pitched business ideas at the College’s Shark Tank-style Innovation Challenge earlier this week. Sponsored by the Principia College Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the event empowered students to pursue ideas they’ve generated this semester. A panel of judges—Rahna Barthelmess (C’88), Herb King (US’65, C’69), and Tom Nickell (C’82)—assessed each business idea on its compelling and innovative solution to a problem or need, feasibility, and entrepreneurial spirit. During questions and answers, judges offered suggestions about marketability, cost, potential competition, manufacturing, and other issues related to launching a business. (Earlier in the semester, a series of talks and workshops helped students consider branding, designing a website for their products and services, and legal protections for a new venture.)
Business Professor Dale Matheny, who directs the Center, presented prizes to the top three teams, whose projects ranged from plans for a mobile app to help high schoolers organize college applications to customized water bottles made from sustainable materials. The 1st-place winners—senior Elaina Cokinos, juniors Courtney Puduski and Cybill Nyabong’o, and sophomore Hallie Jones—valued learning about all that is involved in developing and pitching a business concept and were, of course, thrilled to claim the $300 prize for their “YOURfuture” app idea. “We want to provide a service that truly fits a need,” Elaina explains. “We believe there is a hole in the market, and this app will help 17- to 20-year-olds organize and think more about their future.” Even aside from winning, the event itself was a hit. “The challenge was a fun night,” Elaina adds, “and I enjoyed hearing all of the other presenters and their amazing ideas.”
“Twenty-two student teams pitched their new ventures at our two Innovation Challenges this year,” Matheny says. “They bring immense creativity, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness in developing their ideas. Along the journey, they come to see that they can engage with and have a direct impact on the world.” As if to prove the point, some of the teams that won prizes in the fall’s Innovation Challenge have already launched small businesses.
Innovation Challenge Trivia
The high-energy audience participated by answering trivia questions between presentations. How well can you do? Here are a few:
1. What percentage of small businesses survive the first year? Five years?
2. Which entrepreneur was the inspiration for the character Tony Stark in the Iron Man movies?
3. By how much has the number of women-led businesses in the U.S. grown in the last 15 years?
4. How long after the invention of canned food was the can opener invented?
Answers: 1) 78 percent, 50 percent 2) Elon Musk 3) 54 percent 4) 45 years!
About the Principia College Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Supported by Don (US'64, C'68) and Christina (C'66) Koch and by the College’s 50th Reunion Classes of 1966 and 1967, the Center has a dedicated space in Old Watson that is open to students 24/7. It’s equipped with walls covered in IdeaPaint and technology that puts virtual conversations and collaborations at students' fingertips.