The John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis has awarded a total of $70,000 in seed investment capital to two startup businesses in its annual Olin Cup entrepreneurship competition. The Olin Cup competition was launched last year with a new emphasis on life sciences, medicine, and technology startups, as well as other student started ventures. The business school’s Skandalaris Entrepreneurship Program sponsors the annual competition. This is the first time seed funding was awarded in the entrepreneurship contest.
Ken Harrington, director of the Skandalaris Entrepreneurship Program at the Olin School of Business, says that one of the primary goals of the Olin Cup competition is “cross-campus collaboration” between the top-ranked business, medical, law, engineering, and other schools at Washington University in St. Louis and among the vibrant and diverse business community leaders in the St. Louis area. St. Louis is becoming known for the growth of its burgeoning life and plant sciences industries, spurred on by the region’s new Danforth Plant Sciences Center and Washington University, as well as expansion of the world famous Missouri Botanical Garden.
“We’ve created an open, inclusive environment for team formation,” says Harrington. “A business start-up idea can be submitted from anywhere in the University or community and funding will be made available to teams having only one Olin student or recent alumnus on the team. But we are also actively searching for sponsors and corporate partners who are interested in the promotional aspects of our program, including prominent representation on the new Olin Cup website.”
The new Olin Cup competition awarded seed funding to the winning teams in two divisions. $50,000 was awarded in the “High Opportunity” category (businesses with the potential to be venture-capital funded) to Innovium, a startup business founded on a proprietary platform technology to take renewable resources that have limited value by themselves and turn them into products. Innovium products will also find other applications in markets such as cosmetics and water treatment, and are manufactured using an environmentally friendly, water-based “Green Chemistry.” Innovium’s first product is SoilSentry, an additive to agricultural-irrigation water that can increase soil permeability and conserve water.
In the Olin Cup “Bootstrap” category (businesses that require only limited funding to achieve success), the Washington University business school awarded $20,000 in seed funding to Eli & King, LLC, creators of Crazy Cadence, which produces and distributes fitness music with a military cadence theme. Eli & King takes this genre of music to an entirely different level by creating original cadence songs and infusing them with hip contemporary sounds.
Judges and team mentors for the Olin Cup competition were selected from the St. Louis community as well as nationally, Harrington says, and were matched with Olin’s business school teams. Over fifty business school teams registered in the latest Olin Cup competition. Nine teams made it to the semi-finalist round and five teams were selected as finalists. The five finalists made two-minute “elevator pitches,” prepared detailed business plans, and made final presentations to the Olin Cup judges, resulting in the two winners receiving seed funding for their companies.
“The Olin Cup competition adds to the vibrant St. Louis start-up community,” says Harrington. “It’s truly amazing to see how quickly companies form when people from different disciplines create a collaborative environment.”
The annual Olin Cup Competition was founded in 1987 at the Washington University business school and to date has resulted in the formation of over 56 new businesses by Olin business students. There are currently over 60 colleges and universities in the United States hosting business plan competitions.
The next Olin Cup entrepreneurship competition will open for team registration in February. Teams can then register online at: http://www.olin.wustl.edu/cel/olinCup/register.cfm.
The Olin School’s Skandalaris Entrepreneurship Program is one of the Top 25 business school entrepreneurship programs nationwide, based upon Entrepreneur Magazine’s comprehensive rankings. It is a member of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation National Consortium for Life Science Entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Foundation recenlty selected Washington University in St. Louis as one of eight U.S. universities to share $25 million in grants through a program designed to make entrepreneurship education available across campus and transform the way entrepreneurship is viewed, taught and experienced. Washington University in St. Louis received a grant of $3 million to support campus-wide entrepreneurship programs.