ISU HOSTS “PITCH-OFF” FOR NEW BUSINESS IDEAS

CEED submitted photoMadeleine Coles

News Editor

The Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED and U.S. Bank are hosting a Pitch-Off Competition for students to present their business ideas.

“It’s kind of like Shark Tank,” said CEED Director Jeff Street. “They’ll make their pitch, and the judges will ask questions. And also the judges will give feedback and make suggestions, so that’s really valuable for them.”

This is the first time ISU will be hosting an event like this, Street said.  He added that they planned it at a convenient time, as CEED just recently received a donation from the U.S. Bank that is funding the competition.

20 teams from a range of colleges throughout the university will be competing in the Pitch-Off. Each team will make a four minute pitch and answer questions for six minutes. They will do this three different times for three different panels of judges. The judges range from faculty members to community business owners.

Additionally, there will also be a speed round of pitches during lunch, where each individual student will have 60 seconds to do what Street calls an “elevator pitch” to judges. Each judge will have a poker chip worth one dollar that they can give the students if they like their pitch. At the end, students can redeem their chips for real cash.

But students have the opportunity to make much more, as the first place team will receive $2,000. Second place will receive a $1,000, two runner-ups will receive $500 and a $250 prize will be given to the team with the best support materials.

This competition also gives students an opportunity to practice and get feedback for their pitches before the Idaho Entrepreneurship Challenge, a statewide competition held in Boise in the Spring.

According to Street, the application for the IEC is due at the beginning of January, so this Pitch-Off is a chance for students to fine tune their pitches and have everything prepared before they send in their applications.

Street added that he hopes to make this ISU Pitch-Off an annual event. Additionally, he said plans are in the making to host a spring competition for local high school students.

“That gets them started thinking about how to move their ideas along and continue to develop them through college and their early careers,” Street said.

Planning for the Pitch-Off began last summer with the help of the Small Business Development Center, Tech Help, and Bengal Solutions, who also sponsor CEED. Street said he hopes the competition will be a way for students to realize their own ideas.

“They need to own it,” he said. “They’ll be more passionate about it when they pitch it if they own it. We have a team who’s doing toe pads. They’re athletes, and they know they have a problem with cleats damaging their toes. So they literally gathered up shoes and cut the toes off and put modeling clay in to get the shape of the foot they want. They did that work themselves.”

Additionally, he said the competition helps students see they don’t have to be business or engineering students to be an entrepreneur. He said another participant is a physical therapy student who developed an all-in-one rehab box to carry anywhere.

“She had no business or engineering background, but she realized that she could bring her idea to fruition. Being an entrepreneur is 90 percent idea and 10 percent implementation. By having this kind of an event, we’re teaching students how to get their idea out in an organized and formal way, and that’s very important.”

The competition will be held Dec. 7 in the Student Union Building.

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