FRANKFORT, Ky. (4/17/13) – The Cabinet for Economic Development awarded $100,000 in prize money this past weekend to university students who developed plans for 18 new Kentucky companies.
The awards were announced after a two-day student competition during the sixth annual “Idea State U” event held at the Lexington Center, in Lexington. Each year the competition helps identify and support the next generation of Kentucky innovators and entrepreneurs.
More than 50 students participated, comprising six teams of graduate students and 12 teams of undergraduates from Kentucky’s public universities. With the help of faculty advisors, students spent months developing either business concepts or formal business plans, which were presented to panels of business experts serving as volunteer judges for the competition.
“The Idea State U business plan competition held this past weekend demonstrates the tremendous amount of entrepreneurial talent we have all across Kentucky,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “Many of the innovation-based student ventures that were showcased will go on to form real companies that contribute real jobs to help our economy grow.”
Student entries described proposed ventures for a wide variety of products and services, including an innovative direct-to-consumer manufacturing business, several healthcare companies, a social entrepreneurship venture, and education and energy management businesses, just to name a few.
“The Idea State U competition provides students real world feedback on their dreams,” said Bill Schutters of Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, who has served as a judge for the past two years. “The event teaches them to think about all aspects of their business, to develop and test their ideas so that they can be evaluated and improved – and then gives them some seed capital to get things off the ground.”
Cash prizes are weighted to provide larger awards to those teams whose entries are more fully developed and therefore more likely to succeed. Most of the money can only be claimed as reimbursements for specified business expenses after the team forms a legal company in Kentucky.
An emphasis on readiness to compete in the marketplace maximizes the opportunity to earn a return on the state’s investment by creating real companies that provide real jobs for Kentuckians. Over the past five years, more than 24 percent of the student ventures have formed companies in the Commonwealth after competing at Idea State U events.
The top award of $35,000 was presented to Southern Kentucky Sock Company, a graduate student plan by Western Kentucky University student Kyle O’Donnell. The business venture plans to create a direct-to-consumer, all-natural sock company with manufacturing in Kentucky. A unique aspect of the products involves having computer-readable “QR codes” sewn directly into the socks, which would make online reorders of each customer’s specific size and style simple and convenient.
“After competing in Idea State U, I now have the capital I need to start this business” said O’Donnell. “The judges’ advice and feedback will help me fine-tune my plan, which will help me be more successful more quickly.”
Other prizes for the top-rated proposed ventures include:
$24,571 for a business plan to develop TerraCast Technologies, a biomass-to-butanol company out of the University of Kentucky that is based on technology developed at UK;
$11,428 for Pioneer Earth, a company that will use Fresnel lens technology to create affordable water desalinization units for global use. Pioneer Earth is a company from Murray State;
$5,000 for a business to develop fasteners for the aerospace market that will dramatically reduce service and repair time. The award will help in obtaining patents and launching the company. Latta Fasteners was created by a student from the University of Kentucky;
$5,500 for a business concept to develop a plaque reduction product by PMD Pharmaceuticals, created by undergraduate students from the University of Louisville;
$3,142 for a business concept to develop high-tech animal tracking tags that can detect illness in animals earlier than existing techniques. The concept was created by a graduate team from the University of Kentucky;
$2,357 for a business concept to develop attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) control software for adults, created by an undergraduate student team from the University of Kentucky; and
$1,000 for a business concept to develop a novel event planning business by an undergraduate team from Morehead State University.
A new award, the $5,000 Organizers Award, was given to the team that best demonstrated an innovation-based and scalable business. The winner this year was Pioneer Earth from Murray State.
In addition, the Governor’s Innovation Award was presented to the University of Kentucky’s undergraduate plan entry, Latta Fasteners. This trophy is presented each year to the team with the business venture judged to best demonstrate innovative thinking and possess a “wow” factor.
Information provided by the Cabinet for Economic Development
Photo provided by SurfKY Graphics
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