Undergraduate entrepreneurship students from around North America will gather in Minneapolis in April for e-Fest, a three-day celebration of undergraduate entrepreneurship culminating in the Schulze Entrepreneurship Challenge, where students have the chance to compete for over $250,000 in cash prizes for the best business ideas. e-Fest is believed to be the largest undergraduate business competition in the U.S., based on the cash prizes to be awarded.

St. Thomas undergraduate teams (of two to five students) are encouraged to enter this national competition. Teams enter by submitting a pitch video and slide deck online no later than 8 p.m. Central time on Feb. 23. More information on the rules and deadlines is available at eix.org/e-Fest.

Sponsored by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas, Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX.org, a nonprofit online platform for entrepreneurship education, e-Fest narrows finalists to the top 25 student teams nationally, following a preliminary online competition. The final competition will take place April 12-14, 2018, at the Schulze School in Minneapolis.

The three-day event will feature workshops, a Pitch Competition, an Innovation Challenge and cash prizes for the entries with the most promising global impact and social impact. The top prize will be $75,000, with the potential for more based on winning the social impact or the global impact prize. In addition, the Pitch Competition will award $17,500 in cash prizes and the Innovation Challenge will award $40,000.

April’s event will be the second annual e-Fest conference. The first, in April 2017, drew entries from 160 student teams at 81 schools. The grand prizewinner last year was Park & Diamond, a student-run company that designed a new bicycle helmet that is attractive, stowable and easier to wear than standard helmets, without compromising safety.

Students who have participated in e-Fest say it opened up new opportunities for their business and helped them grow as entrepreneurs. Virginia Tech students Jordan Klein and David Hall, the team behind Park & Diamond, used their grand prize money to undertake more research and development, invest in better testing equipment and hire new staff.

“We have done seven or eight competitions but by far e-Fest was the best,” said Klein, who added that e-Fest connected Park & Diamond with an investor who offered funding. “e-Fest is about more than the money. … It’s the external validation.  We had won $1,500 in an earlier competition and that was a lot to two broke college kids. The money we won at e-Fest [$100,000] was a lot, and it raised our visibility.”

Last year’s second- and third-place teams developed a caffeinated snack bar and a new kind of digital currency; other finalist teams’ ideas ranged from eco-friendly building materials, to a face mask that protects asthmatics from the cold, to software that analyzes sentiment on social media.

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