IU students took the top three positions in a business pitch competition Jan. 12 organized by Bloomington Economic Development Corp.
The competition, Demo Day, is the culmination of the B-Start pre-accelerator program, where students pitch their novel technology businesses and their business plans to judges, according to an IU press release.
“Starting a business is no easy task, and what we’ve shown these students is that Bloomington has the people and resources to support them through that process,” said Dana Palazzo, vice president of the Bloomington Economic Development Corp., in the release. “B-Starters also bring an energy to our local startup ecosystem that revitalizes and challenges even our most seasoned entrepreneurs to think outside the box.”
The competition, which is in its second year, is between IU and Ivy Tech Community College student entrepreneurs. Judges listen to students’ pitches for five minutes before reviewing their business plans.
Judges on the panel were Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of the IU Research and Technology Corp.; Jim Silberstein, chair of the School of Business at Ivy Tech; and Rob Dorocke, vice president of global information technology strategies for Cook Medical.
The winner of the competition was senior finance student Zachary Burr. His pitch was for a subscription-based and on-demand laundry and dry-cleaning service in Bloomington. His first-place prize was $2,500.
Coming in behind Burr was senior informatics student Christopher Podlaski. He cofounded Plant Software, a web-based scheduling platform. He won $1,500.
In third place was junior entrepreneurship and international business student Wes Wagner, whose company uses a platform for finding, using and managing freelancing students for intern-level work. His winnings were $500.
There were a total of 9 student companies that participated in the competition. They were provided mentorship, coaching, consultations and informational sessions for their budding businesses before Demo Day.
Sponsors for the event included IU’s Innovate Indiana initiative, Cook Group and the Gayle and Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech.
After their founders’ graduation, business ventures from the B-Start program continue participating in workshops and developing networking opportunities.
“B-Start gives students an opportunity to work side by side with veteran entrepreneurs,” Joe Carley, IU’s associate director for economic development, said in the release. “Within two short years, we’ve seen several B-Start businesses begin to make an impact on the region’s economy, and the potential exists for exponential impacts as they continue to grow and more B-Start graduates emerge.”
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