MN Cup is still going on as planned.
On Monday, applications opened for the 16th annual entrepreneurial competition at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. The first stage of the competition is primarily virtual anyway, so little has changed this year, said Jessica Berg, director of MN Cup. Aspiring entrepreneurs simply respond to an online questionnaire to enter. A panel of judges then evaluates their submissions remotely.
“A big hope of mine is that this unprecedented time will actually increase innovation and spur new ideas on a totally different scale,” Berg said. “These extreme constraints could birth some amazing solutions.”
As in prior years, the competition is broken up into seven main divisions: education and training; energy, clean tech, or water; food, agriculture, and beverage; high-tech; impact ventures; life science and health IT. There are also two other divisions for student and youth applicants.
For now, the plan is to close applications on April 17, though there’s a chance it could be pushed back, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. By late May, Berg plans to announce the 90 semifinalists. (Ten companies are picked for each category.)
MN Cup applicants must be based in Minnesota and have less than $1 million in yearly revenue. Winners will take home a share of prize money, along with access to mentors and other resources. Last year, division winners took home $30,000 apiece. The grand prize winner will get an extra $50,000.
In June, Berg hopes to host an in-person semifinalist event at Carlson. That event would include coaching on creating business plans.
“Every year, we do try to blend in-person and virtual experiences because we know that human relationships and connections are important to people’s success,” Berg said. But she noted that things may change based on forthcoming federal guidance.
Finalists are expected to be chosen in August, with a final awards ceremony scheduled for Sept. 22.
In the meantime, Berg has scheduled a range of 30-minute webinars to help applicants get ready for the competition. She held a Zoom seminar on Thursday morning, with plans to host several more over the coming weeks.