Think on their feet. Sell their idea. Create a fully functioning business. This is the process and the product the Oregon State Advantage Accelerator offers through the Next Great Startup competition. And entrepreneurs of all types are eager to take on the challenge.
Last year’s inaugural Next Great Startup was a huge success — 30 applicants battled it out for 16 slots, and four startup businesses finished with cash prizes and industry connections. This year, the Advantage Accelerator is revamping the Next Great Startup to include lead-in college competitions. The winners receive a direct ticket to the university-wide draft, where venture capitalists will choose teams to coach through the competition.
College competitors pitch their startup ideas
In phase one of the Next Great Startup, colleges host individual competitions to determine the best startup idea in that field. This year’s participants include the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, the Honors College and the combined colleges of Business and Engineering, who are working collaboratively. Student teams from each college deliver a validation worksheet along with a 3-minute presentation to a combination of alumni, Oregon State faculty and Advantage Accelerator staff. The winning team from each college receives $3,000 in Amazon Web Services credits and automatic entry into the draft.
Because an overwhelming number of applications were received last year, the college competitions were set up to allow more teams to compete.
“When the competitions finished last year, we realized there were so many good student-led startups on campus,” says Mark Lieberman, Advantage Accelerator chief startup officer.
This change benefits both applicants and participating colleges. Dale McCauley, DAMlab Makerspace manager in the College of Business, says the lead-in competitions are very important to his students — many of whom have already participated in entrepreneurship-focused programs offered within the college through InnovationX and the Austin Family Business Program.
“I’m looking forward to seeing our student teams rise to the occasion to get the resources and support they need to move their ideas forward,” he says.
Venture capitalists coach, mentor startup teams
In phase two, the draft, winners from the college competitions present to a panel of venture capitalist coaches, who will choose teams to mentor throughout the remainder of the competition. From there, judges whittle down the competitors to four finalists, and from those finalists, one winner.
The Next Great Startup competition’s success is exemplified in its previous winning company, GobTech, which uses neural network technology to improve the performance of video games. Since the competition ended, GobTech has been featured on the prominent technology website VentureBeat, released an iOS version of their Neural Sandbox app, and the Android version of their app has been downloaded over 70,000 times.
Competition highlights university research strength
For these startups, the competition is a proving ground. But it’s even more than that. It’s a way to showcase the university’s exceptional research capabilities and innovative ideas.
“We’re now the state’s largest research university in terms of total research dollars,” says Karl Mundorff, Advantage Accelerator director. “This contest is an opportunity to let our light shine — to let people know about the level of research that is taking place at OSU.”
Don’t forget to apply!
If you missed the college competitions, there’s still time to apply for the upcoming campuswide competition. Submit your application by Jan. 16 at nextgreatstartup.oregonstate.edu.
Interested in developing your startup idea, but not quite ready to compete? The next Accelerate cohort will begin in mid-January 2018. Apply by Jan. 3 at advantage.oregonstate.edu/accelerate.