New Venture Challenge begins Monday

BOULDER – The University of Colorado’s New Venture Challenge, a campuswide entrepreneurship contest, enters its sixth year on Monday, Sept. 30, with a kick-off event.

Boulder-based Orbotix Inc.’s chief executive Paul Berberian will keynote the 5:30 p.m. event by speaking to students and community members about finding and choosing a great business idea. It will be held at the Wolf Law Building, 2450 Kittredge Loop Road, on the CU-Boulder campus.

Monday serves as a sort of informational night for those interested in competing in the challenge, which culminates in the spring with prize money for winners in six different categories: information technology, mobile applications, clean tech, general business, social impact and music.

Brad Bernthal, director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Silicon Flatirons Center and an associate professor in the CU law school, said prize money in a typical year usually totals about $50,000, though this year’s purse won’t be known until later in the fall.

The New Venture Challenge is a sort of entrepreneurial launch pad in which teams create companies, working with a network of about 70 mentors from the business community along the Front Range who volunteer to help out. At a pitch night in October, students will explain their ideas and interested participants can find teams to join. The teams then begin forming their companies in November.

Monday’s meeting, Bernthal said, kicks off the “inspiration phase” of the competition. Not everyone who participates has to be a CU student, but each team must have at least one primary member who is a student or a member of the faculty or staff.

“This has been as high impact as anything I’ve been involved with as it relates to student engagement,” Bernthal said. “This gets to the essence of experiential activity.”

The New Venture Challenge is a collaboration between several campus organizations, including the Silicon Flatirons Center, the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, the Entrepreneurship Center for Music, CU Cleantech, ATLAS, The College of Engineering’s Entrepreneurship and Management program, the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program, and InnovateCU.

Bernthal said the challenge isn’t so much about becoming TechStars and creating $100 million companies, though that would be a nice side effect. Rather, he said the main purpose is to teach students from all parts of campus entrepreneurial processes and tools, whether they launch a successful company now or 10 years down the road.

“This is about building a meaningful experience around entrepreneurship,” Bernthal said.

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