Have you ever participated in a university business competition?
According to UC Davis, university business competitions help turn ideas into lean, mean, well connected startups with great potential for profit. “The real value of entering a business competition is not winning money; it’s making valuable new connections,” adds SME Pals, a free advice and insight entrepreneurial resource that says it works with universities like UC Davis, Duke, Cornell and Emory.
Now in its 10th year running, the UC Davis Big Bang! Business Competition provides a forum for UC Davis members and the broader community in the greater Sacramento area of California to collaborate, develop and test business visions and plans.
This year’s competition kicked off last October with a keynote by Kiva.org co-founder Matt Flannery, and awarded a record $50,000-plus in prizes to promising startups in the annual competition.
UC Davis Annual Big Bang! Business Competition
Organized and run by the UC Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Big Bang! says it provides workshops, mentorship, financing guidance and networking opportunities to accelerate commercialization and advance the startup process.
The business competition is open to students, faculty, researchers and staff interested in starting or growing a business venture. In addition to the business competition, Big Bang! offers a series of workshops designed to build entrepreneurial skills with the support and involvement of local Davis and Sacramento area business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors.
“It’s amazing to see how far our teams can go,” said Professor Andrew Hargadon, founder and faculty director of the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the award ceremony. “In October, many of their ideas are just that: ideas. By May, with a ton of hard work, support and mentorship, many of these ideas are ready for prime-time as companies, licensed technologies or nonprofits.”
UC Davis Big Bang 2016 Business Competition Winners
Forty-two teams representing 120 aspiring entrepreneurs participated in the 2016 Big Bang! business competition. Five finalists had the honor of pitching their business ventures to the award ceremony audience at the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center before prizes were announced.
UC Davis said this year’s competition showcased a fairly diverse array of ideas across a range of industries, as well as an impressive amount of innovation. The winners developed ventures that address biomedical advances, innovation in food and agriculture, clean tech and global poverty alleviation.
The five finalists of the 2016 Big Bang! business competition were:
- PlayPatch, creator of a Bluetooth-enabled wearable fertility tracker and smartphone app aimed at making natural birth control easy for the 6.6 million U.S. women who are dissatisfied with their contraceptive method. The entry won both the contest’s $20 000 1st prize and the $2 500 People’s Choice Award for its efforts.
- ImmunoTag developed an efficient antibody drug conjugate that links small molecule to virtually any antibody in as little as 15 minutes, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars in drug manufacturing costs. The entry won the $15 000 2nd prize for the achievement.
- Mariss Biosciences developed a simple blood test to detect the presence of immune biomarkers for autism spectrum disorder. The entry won the $4 200 Biomedical Innovation Award.
- Ag for Hire provides farm owners innovative and streamlined access to specialty and seasonal laborers. The entry won a $3,000 Innovation in Food & Agriculture Award.
- Eclasstic presented international students and business professionals with a blended learning method that combines live sessions and an interactive video-based app to build English communication skills. Contestants took home the $3 000 Global Poverty Alleviation Award.
Nurturing the Next Businesses
PlayPatch said Big Bang! helped them form and cultivate their venture into something with lots of potential to become a real business. “We feel very strongly that PlayPatch is more than just an interesting idea or a 10-minute pitch,” said team lead Justin Klein, a Ph.D. candidate in biomedical engineering. “The prize will help take our prototype to the next level and help us acquire some equipment and pay for things that we couldn’t otherwise afford. Ultimately, it will help reduce uncertainty and make PlayPatch attractive enough that investors will be willing to commit.”
Matthew Vendryes, an English instructor at UC Davis Extension and founding teacher of Eclasstic, said: “This contest was a great training ground, and most importantly, meeting a community of supportive business and academic leaders working to fuel the growth of innovation in our region.”
The Big Bang! Business Competition is an eagerly anticipated annual business competition in the Sacramento area. You can learn more about the competition here.