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Student entrepreneurs move on to Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament

April 1, 2015

UW-River Falls announced the two top teams from the UWRF New Venture Competition that are moving on to the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament on April 11 in Madison, Wisconsin.

SoPOD, a start-up developing pod technology that aims to let passengers flying to avoid TSA’s 3-1-1 requirements, placed first. Team members of SoPOD include Eric Wenz, a senior majoring in business administration; Andrew Lind, a senior majoring in business administration; and An Trieu, a junior in chemistry.

Second place was given to Charg-e Inc., which is developing a portable power bank with inductive charging for mobile devices. Members of Charg-e Inc. are Jiaxin Li, senior in business administration; Christopher Hansen, a post-baccalaureate student from River Falls studying biology; and Thomas Makens, a senior in chemistry.

Third place was given to Forage Warehouse, but they won’t be participating in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament.

The New Venture Competition has a goal to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in UWRF students and faculty, where they generate external funding and participate in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament. Participants worked on their business plans since October and had to submit a two-page business plan. Finalists were decided based on judge’s opinions of their business plans, and they were also required to present their ideas at booths.

“I’m impressed with the level of creativity and commitment demonstrated by these students,” said Danielle Campeau, director of the UWRF Center for Innovation and Business Development. “Starting a business isn’t easy and they are truly thinking like entrepreneurs. It’s a pleasure working with highly motivated students that are passionate about exploring innovative business ideas.”

First place was awarded a $3,000 business stipend and a $1,000 cash prize, second place was given a $2,000 business stipend with a $750 cash prize and third place was awarded a $1,000 business stipend and a $250 cash prize.

Finalists will be given the opportunity to meet with Daymond John from ABC’s Shark Tank, who was announced in October to be the speaker for the fourth annual Scholarship Benefit Dinner on Friday, April 24.

The Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament is an entrepreneurship event available to undergraduates attending any two- or four-year UW System university, excluding Madison. Participants will compete for paid internships and a chance to win $25,000.

According to the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament website, the competition represents a new paradigm in entrepreneurship. It’s not a business plan competition but rather a business idea competition based on a new way of thinking about the entrepreneurial process and business concept development. Each company must present the findings of its work in a brief 10-minute presentation to judges.

Winners of the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament have the opportunity to move on to compete on a national and international level. The 2014 winners were students from UW-Milwaukee. According to “In Wisconsin,” the winning company, Grypshon, offers safe, non-corrosive and convenient mats that provide a surface on which aerospace mechanics can stand or place tools.