1000 Pitches, one of eight projects directed by the entrepreneurial organization MPowered, narrowed a pool of nearly 4,500 University student pitches to just nine Monday.
The University has been 1000 Pitches’ vanguard since the organization was established on campus seven years ago. The entrepreneurial contest has also made its way to Penn State University’s campus, but its national scope did not fully evolve until this past year when 1KP found a home away from home at four additional institutions. The organization has received more than 7,500 pitches in total this year, nearly 4,500 of which came from the University.
Nine winners received prize money to support their ideas. Students can pitch ideas as an individual or as a group. Each individual is allowed up to three pitches which last anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes.
Student groups, some of which have competed in other competitions such as optiMize, participate to gain additional funding. Additionally, some individuals are required to participate by courses such as the Ross School of Business’s Entrepreneurship Hour.
The categories for the competition were Environment, Health, Consumer Products & Small Businesses, U-Provements, Education, Web & Software, Tech & Hardware, Mobile Apps and Research. A sports category was also sponsored by Bizdom, a startup accelerator in Detroit.
Some winning ideas included biodegradable isolation gowns, an automated washer and dryer system that to the audience’s delight also folds clothes and an app that tracks the nearest doctor in third-world nations.
LSA freshman Sam Vetromile presented the winning pitch for the mobile app Voice with the help of four other team members. He said the app is a platform for microblogging that encourages students to voice their opinions and read those of others.
Vetromile said he hopes Voice launches successfully from the University in a way similar to Facebook’s spread from Harvard University.
University President Mark Schlissel opened the ceremony and put a spotlight on the University’s quickly growing innovation culture. He described the student body’s enthusiastic sharing of ideas as well as the intention to use those ideas to better the world as overwhelming, and applauded the thousands who have taken the initiative.
“This entrepreneurial spirit was one of the reasons I was so attracted to the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “I want the University of Michigan to be a place where people aren’t afraid to take chances. We have all the right ingredients to make the University of Michigan a working lab of entrepreneurship.”
LSA junior Saif Jilani judges the pitches and often interacts with judges from other participating schools. Though the different universities do not compete against one another, he said they follow the same judging guidelines.
“We provide them with a judging rubric so that judging is done in a pretty objective manner and effort is made so that every school judges pitches in a similar way,” Jilani said.
LSA sophomore Yianni Kontorousis, one of three directors of 1KP, said the competition is unique in that it is eight weeks long and takes an interdisciplinary approach. He added that impacting students from coast to coast is the major initiative behind the 1KP’s expansion.
“Our ultimate goal is to create a network of entrepreneurs across the nation,” Kontorousis said. “Getting these five schools on board is the first step.”
As the year goes on, the MPowered projects become increasingly specialized, and Kontorousis said the hope is that the 1KP winners continue participating in other projects in the future to help their ideas evolve into functioning business models.
A large portion of the event took an interactive approach as attendees rotated from one “workshop” station to the next. A different entrepreneurial organization ran each station. They included social innovation group optiMize, crash course convention group Miscellania and Makeathon, a weekend event that teaches students to turn their ideas into physical prototypes. Pillar Technology, an Ann Arbor business consulting company, also participated in the event by leading a station and sponsoring a winner.
Engineering senior Ben Alberts has pitched an idea each year of his college career and made it to the final round of 90 pitches each year.
“It’s really good to have a collaborative space where you can talk about your ideas and get advice,” Alberts said. “Really when a lot of people come here, they just have this idea and they don’t really know the next steps and this gives you the resources if you really want to take your idea forward.”