Last week at the Angel Capital Summit, the Rockies Venture Club hosted the first-ever University Startup Challenge. It was the first pitch competition in Colorado specifically for students from across the state, and we were proud to host it! Since they presented to real investors at an investor conference, we were looking for the ‘most fundable companies’ instead of just business plan competition winners. These entrepreneurs are all actively working to build their company, and some have real traction in the market. They were also on equal footing with the rest of the companies at ACS for investor funding. 5 of the top universities in Colorado nominated students for the event – University of Denver, CU-Boulder, CU-Denver, University of Northern Colorado and Colorado State University.
The student entrepreneurs had to go through the same process as the other companies accepted to pitch at ACS – pitch academy, pitch practice, and working individually with their assigned coach to prepare. In addition, we lined up prizes for the winner and runner-up within the Challenge, specifically geared toward helping them build their business and connect to the community. We also had a panel of venture capitalists to ask questions and provide feedback to the students on the spot.
Overall, the competition went well! We were impressed with how prepared the students were – all well practiced and enthusiastic. They were confident presenters, who remained poised on stage while handling high-level and fundamental business questions from the VCs. The VCs also voted on a winner, and gave their thoughts on many topics, from branding advice to saying “I think you’re absolutely acquirable” to one of the students.
I’d like to thank the student entrepreneurs:
David Hunt and Dan Vinson, CSU: Monkii Bars – Wild Gym, aka Monkii Bars has developed the lightweight and ultra-portable suspension training tool that ignites adventure and enables you to work out anywhere.
Devin Mills, CU-Boulder: RADO Distilling – Rado Distilling is “Distilling Colorado” into its Radorums and Brandies by using only 100% Colorado grown fruits and vegetables in everything they make.
Rob Carpenter, CU-Denver: AppIt Ventures – AppIt Ventures is a high-end, boutique mobile app development company based in Denver. They specialize in building custom apps that generate brand engagement, drive productivity, and increase revenues.
Raj Reddy, UNC: Omirown Entertainment – Omirown Entertainment is a mobile smartphone gaming development company.
Nick Rizzi, DU: RentEase – RentEase is a property management software engineered from the ground up for residential landlords who experience daily simple issues and headaches around rental properties.
I’d also like to thank the venture capitalists for generously donating their time and effort for the competition. They were also nice enough to offer to provide feedback and talk with the students after the competition. It’s great to work with down-to-earth VCs.
Thanks to the following people/companies for sponsoring prizes! We were looking for prizes that would help these students build their business and connect to the community.
- Accounting services from Tim Woods at CBiz MHM
- Consulting from the Boulder Small Business Development Center, as well as 5 of their paid seminars free of charge
- Legal work from Pat Linden at Faegre Baker Daniels
- Cloud hosting and digital services from Green House Data
- Corporate and full memberships to the Rockies Venture Club
- Peter Adams and Nicole Gravagna are providing copies of Venture Capital for Dummies for all of the participants.
Last but certainly not least, thank you to my committee members for volunteering as well! We couldn’t have done this without you.
Great job to the student entrepreneurs, and we’re excited for the next one!
Tim Harvey was chair of the 2014 University Startup Challenge, and is a regular blog contributor to the Rockies Venture Club. He was also a returning CEO pitch coach (for 30db this time) and had a great time volunteering with RVC for this conference. You can find him on LinkedIn or @taharveyconsult.