More than 100 students and faculty from across the University of Virginia gathered at Garrett Hall last week for the “Be Epic” Entrepreneurship Kickoff, showcasing entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities across Grounds including student entrepreneurship clubs, programs and events.
Vice President for Research Thomas C. Skalak explained the details of the U.Va. Entrepreneurship Cup, an annual pan-University entrepreneurship competition that this year will offer $40,000 in prizes.
In a change from past competitions, Skalak explained, instead of holding first-round competitions in each school, this year students from any school are invited to submit a business concept to one of four themed tracks:
- Consumer or Business-to-Business Goods and Services
- Medical Technologies / Health Care
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Technology / Media / Telecommunications
The change of format to theme tracks is intended to facilitate more “apples-to-apples” competition, Skalak said. Two finalists from each themed track, along with one team from U.Va.’s College at Wise, will compete for a $20,000 grand prize in the E-Cup finals, scheduled for Nov. 21 at Garrett Hall. The competition is open to all U.Va. undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.
“There is a new groundswell in Charlottesville,” Skalak said, “led by U.Va. students who have the passion to be the next imaginative entrepreneurs that take their own ideas from ‘zero to one’ and make a meaningful impact on the world.”
Skalak’s remarks reference a hot new book among entrepreneurs, “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future,” by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and the data-mining company Palantir. As Fortune Magazine explains:
The title refers to the distinction Thiel draws between transformative, “vertical” change – going from zero to one – and incremental, “horizontal” change – going from one to more. “If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress,” he explains in the book’s first chapter. “If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.”
After Skalak’s remarks, the audience heard from several finalists from the past couple of E-Cups, including the “Chitenges 4 Change” team that won last year’s E-Cup with its design of an innovative reusable sanitary pad for women in developing countries. Presentations by VotersChoice, a semifinalist in the 2013 E-Cup, and PhageFlag, winner of the 2012 E-Cup, provided additional examples of successful E-Cup concepts.
Further information about the i.Lab at U.Va., the Galant Challenge, Tech Entrepreneurship@UVA and other entrepreneurship initiatives was shared by co-sponsors from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Galant Center for Entrepreneurship, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the Batten Institute at the Darden School of Business.
Heather Hellwinkel, president of the Darden Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, also spoke at the event, offering undergraduate students the opportunity to collaborate with and seek financial and marketing advice from Darden students.
“I was amazed by the great ideas I heard at the Entrepreneurship Kickoff,” she said. “There is no doubt that the entrepreneurial mindset is alive and well at U.Va. During the event, I had the opportunity to connect with the leaders of other start-up focused clubs and I am excited and energized by all the things we have going on this year to support a culture of innovation at U.Va.”