The Olin Cup business competition allows populace participation in judging semi-finalists

Audience members will vote on their favorite business proposal

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in St. Louis — and now it involves audience participation!

The Olin Cup Competition, the annual business formation contest at Washington University in St. Louis, is taking the contest to the people. On Thursday, Nov. 9 at 6 p.m., fourteen semi-finalists will present their business proposals in an “elevator pitch” first to a panelist of judges and then for an audience. Audience members will then vote on which pitch should win.

The event, which takes place in Whitaker Hall on Washington University’s Danforth Campus, is free and open to the public.

“This will be an exciting and fast-paced event,” said Ken Harrington, managing director of the Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which organizes the competition. “The audience members will be given the same evaluation sheet the judges used earlier in the day. We’re going to ask them to fill it out after they’ve heard the semi-finalists’ elevator pitches. It’ll be a huge opportunity for people to connect and help each other.”

Once the audience evaluations have been collected, the judges’ selections for the finalists will be announced. The audience votes will be tabulated a week later. Those audience members whose scores are the closest match to the judges’ decision will win $250.

The Olin Cup Competition is an annual business formation contest organized by The Skandalaris Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Teams compete for a total of $70,000 in seed investments — awarded to those who create viable business ventures with a high probability of success. Since 2005, the Olin Cup has also awarded a $5,000 prize to the best student-owned or student-supported team.

This year’s semi-finalists were selected from the largest pool of submissions since the competition’s founding. Participants include a wide range of proposals such as high tech products that monitor food safety; new applications for mobile devices; technical writers for start-up businesses; and medical supplements to slow bone loss.

For a complete list of the semi-finalists and to register for the November 9 event, go to the Skandalaris Center web site at

The Olin Cup Competition was founded at Washington University in 1987 and has resulted in over 60 start-up companies. Teams in the Olin Cup Competition must include at least one current or former Washington University student to be eligible to receive funding awards.

The Olin Cup is co-sponsored by Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal, LLP; the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA); Lopata, Flegel, and Company, LLP; Polsinelli Shalton Welte Suelthaus, and the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University.

Washington University is one of eight Kauffman Campuses which were awarded a total of $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. In addition, Bob and Julie Skandalaris, along with other private donors, have generously contributed to this broad initiative.