The Smart Pitch Challenge, created by the CUNY Institute for Virtual Enterprise, gives student entrepreneurs an opportunity to create and validate a business concept, pitch their idea and follow a business plan to ultimately launch their business.
The kick-off, held January 31 at Baruch College, included remarks by noted business entrepreneurs, educators and mentors. Dr. Stuart Schulman, Director of CUNY Institute for Virtual Enterprise; Dr. Myung-Soo Lee, Dean of the Zicklin School of Business; Dr. Edward Rogoff, Field Professor of Entrepreneurship; and Dr. John Clark, Acting University Executive Director for Business and Industry Relations.
The Verizon Foundation, the competition's new lead sponsor, is providing a $60,000 grant to support this year's SmartPitch Challenge, including $25,000 in prizes for the top five teams. Verizon will also offer mentors to provide infrastructure, marketing, and general business management support to the teams.
The focus of the competition is to seek out innovative student concepts that would fall into one of the following categories:
- Education: mobile learning, tablet computing, learning analytics, gaming and gamification
- Health: healthcare, pharma, patient management, sports, exercise, behavior, diagnostics
- Energy: solar, sustainability, green initiatives, energy storage, bio/sustainable fuel
These innovative approaches can be in the form of new technological advances, new strategic alliances, new methods or processes or new strategies.
The best teams will be invited to present their concepts at the SmartPitch Event on June 5 and compete for $25,000 in prizes. The 1st Place team receives $10,000; 2nd Place receives $7,500 and 3rd Place receives $5,000, Most Innovative receives $1,500, and Audience Favorite receives $1,000. The top winning teams will be selected to participate in a virtual business incubator ending with the launch of their concepts. The incubator includes: entrepreneurship boot camp, accelerator space, high level mentorships, access to the entrepreneurship network in virtual and real space, and access to funding opportunities. The winners will also present their new businesses later in the fall, and be recognized as IVE Fellows in a continuing support network.
During the event, Dr. Christoph Winkler, Associate Director of CUNY IVE, introduced this year's keynote speaker Justina Nixon-Saintil, Director for Education of Verizon Foundation, who offered this year's participants words of encouragement. Justina is accountable for the development, implementation and measurement of the organization's education program for both K-12 and higher education. Justina works with numerous non-partners including the UTeach Institute, International Society for Technology in Education, MIT Media Lab, the Smithsonian Institute, the National Council of Teachers of Math, and National Geographic. Through the organization, Justina leads the foundation's signature programs that include Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, Verizon Innovative App Challenge and Thinkfinity.org. Justina was followed by Mr. Rifaat Foufa, Executive Director Social Enterprise at the Gazelle Colleges Group in the UK, who presented his remarks via Skype during the event. CUNY IVE has organized a parellel competition with the Gazelle Colleges Group via the SmartPitch.org platform.
A series of supporting events will be hosted throughout the challenge that will lead up to the formal SmartPitch Competition on June 5. At the kick-off Rolando Franco, IBM Executive and IT Architect, encouraged participates to take advantage of the mentoring, coworking sessions and social networking opportunities that are offered during the course of the SmartPitch Challenge.
Anelisa Lauri, Community Manager of CUNY IVE, introduced the panel of students who either participated in past SmartPitch Competitions or who have started their own businesses through the support they received from CUNY IVE and The Field Center for Entrepreneurship.
The panel included (from L-R): John Fout, founder of Sohha Savory Yogurt; Elizabeth Alpern, co-founder of The Gefilteria; Eli Attias, founder of Exambler; Ronald Zorrilla, founder of Backershub.com.
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