The co-founder and chief executive officer of the STARTedUP Foundation says the state’s high school pitch competition brings a multitude of benefits for students. Applications for this year’s Innovate WithIN competition are being accepted through February 7 and students can win $10,000 cash for their ideas. Officials say all students can participate in the competition, from those who gravitate toward business creation to students who don’t see themselves as ever starting a business.
The foundation is one of the hosts of the event and Don Wettrick says he’s starting to see more students and teams move toward more social impact ideas.
“A lot of students are identifying problems that are facing Indiana and I think what we enjoy the most is this gets the kids into what we call an entrepreneurial way of being,” said Wettrick. “They may not think that they think that they have a business idea or the event right now, but they start being part of an ecosystem and they can start building something so solutions to problems is really a hot topic right now.”
The STARTedUP Foundation provides mentoring services for the finalists in the competition by creating a student accelerator program to help them develop and execute their ideas, as well as providing access to the company’s network of mentors and advisers.
“I’m really hoping that we build and scale something (where) the students this year are part of a cohort, that all the finalists bond. They might help one another out. Practically speaking, are we going to produce the next Zuckerberg out of this competition? Maybe, but what we’re really focused on is changing mindsets, building capacity and empowering more students.”
The overall winners will each receive a $10,000 cash prize, another $10,000 toward one year of in-state tuition, as well as internship and mentoring services. Dave Roberts, chief innovation officer for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., says the competition has a lot to do with culture building in Indiana.
“We want to really inspire the next generation of students to think about things as if they’re business owners. We believe that entrepreneurs make the best employees if they’re not in their own companies and moreover, if they go on to start their own companies, the majority of net new job creation is really from those companies that are 0-5 years-old.”
Roberts says they saw a more than 80% increase in participation from the first year of the competition to the second with 400 students from 88 high schools. A team of students from Rivet High School in Vincennes won last year’s competition with LyfePack, a tech-integrated kevlar backpack that uses solar panels.
“What we’ve seen is really a lot of kids becoming more and more interested in the effort overall,” said Roberts. “They’re going to school more prepared, more thoughtful about what they’re learning in college and how that’s going to impact their lives going forward.”
Interested high school student teams are invited to submit video pitches online before February 7. Middle school students who want to learn more about entrepreneurship can register for workshops that will take place across the state in nine different regions.
You can learn more about the Innovate WithIN competition by clicking here.