Tonight, 15 students from Pennsylvania’s state universities will hop online to pitch their business ideas for a chance to win up to $10,000 in the State System Startup Challenge.
The competition is in its ninth year, but this is the first time the student entrepreneurial contest will be held virtually. The contest also has a new name. It was previously known as The Business Plan Competition.
There are two competitions during the two-hour event.
First, five finalists will compete for a top $10,000 prize from PSECU, the credit union serving the state’s school system.
The finalists and their project names are:
Ten students will participate in a competition of one-minute elevator pitches for a top prize of $350.
The elevator pitch competitors are:
One of the judges for the competition is Michelle James, director of business development for PSECU.
“I’m looking for someone whose idea is innovative, creative and well thought out and that they are able to present it well, which is important,” she said.
She said the competition will be a little tougher on the student entrepreneurs this year because the event is being held virtually on Zoom, rather than in person like it was in past years.
But David Pidgeon, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which is sponsoring the event, said that extra challenge could be a good thing.
“There is something special about the ability to continue this competition during the pandemic,” he said.
Most School campuses have been shut down for more than a month, so having a live event like this online shows that the schools and students can adapt to the new learning environment and still get real world experience, he said.
“Small business is a highly competitive market. Anyone who wants to start a small business has to learn to be proactive and competitive,” Pidgeon said.
Winners will be announced after the completion of the competition.
Besides James, judges for the competition are: Sherri Collins, deputy secretary for the Office of Technology & Innovation at the state Department of Community and Economic Development; Michael Gildea, founder and CEO of Brain Gain LLC; Laura Potthoff, director of business and workforce development, Cumberland Area Economics; and Clair Weigle III, district office manager for state Rep. Kate Klunk.o