With more than $200,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for the best undergraduate business ideas, students from around the country are set to gather for e-Fest, which will be hosted by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the St. Thomas Opus College of Business on April 6-8.
Twenty-five undergraduate student teams have been selected from a pool of 160 teams to participate in the competition, which will award $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000 to the top three business ideas. An additional $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 will be awarded to their schools to support entrepreneurial education. A Friday night Innovation Challenge also will award $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 to the top three student teams that develop the best solution to a business challenge posed that evening.
The largest undergraduates-only business plan competition (as measured by the size of the cash awards), e-Fest is sponsored by EIX.org, an online learning platform for entrepreneurs, students and professors. Featured speakers are scheduled to include Best Buy Co. founder Richard M. Schulze and "Shark Tank" TV show regular Daymond John, founder of FUBU, the urban clothing company that grew into a $6 billion brand.
David Deeds, senior editor of EIX, said e-Fest fulfills the triple purpose of celebrating undergraduate entrepreneurs, raising the overall profile of entrepreneurship in undergraduate programs, and raising the national visibility of St. Thomas and the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship as a leader and innovator in undergraduate entrepreneurship education.
“For decades the national focus in entrepreneurship education has been at the MBA level. The high-profile national competitions are targeted to MBA students. This left a hole in the market that we have been able to fill with e-Fest,” Deeds said. “The initial response has been fantastic, with over 160 submissions from 70 universities across the nation. We have participation from schools ranging from Babson, USC and Johns Hopkins to small schools like Seton Hill. The response has been fantastic and exceeded our expectations.”
St. Thomas students Meghan Sharkus and Sam Rystrom have been selected as finalists for their business ideas of, respectively, ExpressionMed and FinMoto.
Students are invited to attend a keynote speech from Schulze on Thursday. Those interested can register here.