With the launch of MPowered’s third annual 1000 Pitches business competition on Friday, members hope to expand entrepreneurship on campus and motivate students to transform their business dreams into realities.
MPowered President and LSA junior Ankit Mehta said since the competition started three years ago, an increasing number of students are participating in the project that allows them to lay the foundations for forming their own companies. The competition is open to all University students on Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses.
In 2008 — the first year of the competition — 1,018 pitches were submitted. The number nearly doubled last year with 2,065 pitches. Engineering sophomore Rachel Barch, 1000 Pitches project director, said the goal is to exceed last year’s number.
MPowered strives to open a door for students to the entrepreneurial world, empower them to take the next few steps in forming a business and to support existing ventures on campus, Mehta said.
Entrepreneurship provides a new option to students who can’t or don’t want to follow the typical path of earning good grades, graduating from college and then working at a large cooperation, he added.
“Two or three years ago a lot of students couldn’t find a job after they graduated, and rather than try to find another way to work, most went to graduate school,” Mehta said. “Entrepreneurship is a way that you can go through to start your own business.”
To participate in the competition, students can submit a 30-second to three-minute business pitch video that will be posted online.
Each pitch fits into one of ten categories — including environment, local business, consumer products, technology, health and mobile applications.
The competition ends Nov. 19 and is followed by an award ceremony in early December, which announces the winner of each category and monetary prizes that total more than $10,000. This year, there are roughly 15 sponsors from companies, organizations and individuals located in Ann Arbor.
“Most of our sponsors started as small businesses at some point in time, and every small business starts as an idea,” Mehta said. “So it all ties back to what the whole competition is about: idea generation and thinking big.”
MPowered members and some of the sponsors determine the finalists, Mehta said. The judging is ongoing as pitches are submitted, and MPowered members who are trained to judge the entries determine the top 10 finalists in each division.
Once the competition ends, the top 10 finalists are notified and then judged by a panel of University professors, business professionals and entrepreneurs in their respective fields.
In addition to increasing the number of pitches, 1000 Pitches intends to expand its presence in the University community and online.
“One of our big pushes for this year is that we’re looking for more exposure of the competition,” Barch said.
According to Barch, each pitch will be automatically uploaded to a YouTube channel so that the public can see all the submissions.
Another change is the push to continue the idea behind 1000 Pitches once the competition ends, Mehta said.
“We want 1000 to be the start of the journey,” he said.
MPowered members also have been actively reaching out to faculty to make 1000 Pitches part of curricula — encouraging professors to give extra credit for submissions or even to require students to submit pitches.
“It provides an opportunity for a lot of students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real world setting without boundaries,” Mehta said.
This year, Barch said MPowered is focusing on its Pledge Program. The program encourages student organizations to “pledge” a certain number of pitches that would be submitted before a designated deadline. If organizations reach their pledge goal, they would receive a monetary reward. The last day to register for the Pledge Program is Oct. 15.
Mehta added that members will set up Pitch Stations, in which members meet with different organizations and talk with students across campus to motivate them to submit pitches.
While students can send in individual pitches, Mehta said group pitches are also encouraged.
“Their passion will feed off each other, which will help them create bigger and better ideas,” he said.
1000 pitches is also continuing its “Operation Dorm Storm” and “Attack the Hill” programs — which were developed last year to attract freshmen to enter the competition. On Sunday evenings, MPowered members go to one residence hall to talk about 1000 Pitches, collect new pitches and expose freshmen to entrepreneurial thinking.
Since the competition just started, Mehta said he does not know what new ideas students are coming up with this year. However, he said he is looking forward to seeing the pitches as the competition progresses.
“Everybody has ideas,” he said. “Everybody sees problems in the world but how do you solve these problems? That’s the mentality we are trying to push students to go through to generate ideas for this competition.”