Today was supposed to be the opening day of the fourth annual Entrepreneurship & Innovation Exchange (EIX) e-Fest finals event, a national entrepreneurship competition for undergraduate students, sponsored by EIX and the Minneapolis-based Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, and hosted by the University of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. Covid-19 shut down the event before it even started, but all 25 previously-selected finalists will be awarded $3,000 each, plus an additional $1,000 for their college program and feedback from the judges.
“Although we are not able to hold the finals competition this year, to honor the work of these students and their advisors, we decided to announce and celebrate the finalists,” St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship associate dean Laura Dunham says. “ We were so impressed with the quality of the work that comes out of this...I hope these prizes help them feel really validated, that their work has been worthwhile, that the problems they’re trying to solve are important, and their solutions are good.”
This year’s 25 finalist teams come from colleges and universities all across the country, including University of Illinois-Chicago, George Washington University, Georgia State University, University of Tampa, Grove City College, and University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). The University of Minnesota team created ParkPoolr, a peer-to-peer parking marketplace, which was also a finalist in the student division of the 2019 MN Cup.
“While disappointed he couldn't participate in the live events, I know our student founder of ParkPoolr was very appreciative of the grant to help expand his company,” says John Stavig, ParkPoolr’s team advisor and managing director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota. “E-Fest is a great experience for these students, and we're all working hard not to lose these valuable interactions as we shift all of our courses and programs to a purely online format.”
The annual e-Fest finals competition is usually a Thursday through Saturday affair, says Dunham. Each year, the 25 finalist teams spend the jam-packed days at St. Thomas in professional development workshops, participating in innovation challenges, and at the culminating event, a business plan competition. On Saturday, the top five teams are selected to receive awards of between $10,000 and $75,000, plus additional school grants. The event features 30 judges each year, including people like Best Buy founder Dick Schulze, Hubert Joly, former CEO and current executive chairman of Best Buy; and Ann Winblad, founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners.
Dunham says that while the host and sponsors of e-Fest considered taking the competition virtual when they heard about the Covid-19 shutdowns in mid-March, the event is simply too large and elaborate to have pulled off well in under a month’s time.
“My hope for this year’s teams is that they will keep developing their ideas, use the feedback they got from this process to continue to strengthen their ideas and test them in the marketplace, seek the capital to support their efforts, and just keep it all up," Dunham adds. "Because when we get through this crisis—and we will—the work of entrepreneurs will be more important than ever.”
SnapClips, University of Illinois-Chicago
SEAAV Athletics, Quinnipiac University
Early Intervention Systems, George Washington University
youBelong Cash, Florida Gulf Coast University
Azuza, California State Polytechnic University - Ponona
Patellofemoral Unloader Knee Brace, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
PastimeU, University of Northern Iowa
Puresipity: Jewelry With a Purpose, University of Tampa
BeyondVR Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown College
Ethereal Motion LLC, Western Michigan University
Ethiopay, Georgia State University
Nutrivide, Rutgers University
Rendyr, Virginia Tech
CloudCare, University of Arkansas - Little Rock
Maison, Northeastern University
Transfoam, University of Virginia
Whisk Dating, Oklahoma State University
ParkPoolr, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
SafeSnack, Grove City College
Treecup, Grove City College
For the Love of Hemp, California State University - Channel Islands
Phoenix, Purdue University
TemPower, University of Pennsylvania
Blueprint Stats, Indiana University