#StartUp Purdue Expo with $100,000 in prizes caps trilogy of Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship events

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A newly structured series of entrepreneurship competitions at Purdue University will culminate this spring with student teams competing for $100,000 in cash prizes. The inaugural #StartUp Purdue Expo, planned for Thursday (April 14), is the last in a series of events organized by the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, which this year has expanded efforts at educating student entrepreneurs across three separate events.

“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy on campus, and the expo is bringing it together for one big event to celebrate entrepreneurship,” said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, which runs the nation’s third oldest business model competition, now in its 35th year. 

The full-day event, to be held in the Purdue Memorial Union, brings together the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, the Purdue Foundry entrepreneurship hub, The Anvil student entrepreneurship organization, and the Innovate WithIn statewide high school business pitch competition. Major sponsors include the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, Krannert Graduate School of Management and School of Management and Schurz Communications.

Events during the #Startup Purdue Expo include the regional finals of the Indiana Innovate WithIn high school pitch competition and a “fireside chat” with Purdue alumni John Martinson, managing partner at Edison Ventures in New York, and the namesake of the John Martinson Entrepreneurial Center at Purdue.

Purdue Foundry will host two events during #Startup Purdue Expo. In the morning, a Women in Entrepreneurship Panel will feature four startup founders and CEOs sharing their insights and expertise. In the evening, before the awards presentations, eight startup leaders who received funding from Purdue Foundry will pitch their companies during the Foundry Showcase.

View the full schedule of events.

Chen said the flagship event of the expo is Boiler Demo Day, in which eight teams will pitch to a dozen investors acting as judges for $100,000 in prize money. The pitch competition is the culmination of The Anvil’s Boiler Accelerator, an eight-week series of workshops, mentoring and events with investors run by The Anvil in cooperation with the Burton D. Morgan Center.

In previous years, the center hosted the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition over the span of several months in the fall and spring semesters. This year, the center decided to organize its business competition program into three separate events: the “Moonshot Pitch” competition in the fall, an abbreviated version of the traditional business model competition, and The Anvil’s Boiler Accelerator and Boiler Demo Day.

Moonshot Pitch focuses students on big problems

Held for the first time in September, The Moonshot Pitch Competition focused on “ideation,’ encouraging students (some collaborating with faculty) to pitch a solution to a global challenge problem. Sixteen finalists were invited to pitch their idea in one minute, competing for a $7,000 prize pool. The top prizes went to:

  • First place $1,600 – Automatic Antidote Delivery Device, a device to detect opioid overdose, administer an antidote and alert first responders, developed by Vy Le working with Hyowon Lee, an associate professor of biomedical engineering.
  • Second place $1,200 – UPLeft, a service that delivers leftover food from restaurants and delivers it to nonprofit organizations, developed by Veronica Galles.
  • Third place $1,000 – World’s Whiteest Paint, a cooling paint to curb climate change, developed by Emily Barber working with Xiulin Ruan, a professor of mechanical engineering.

Other ideas presented during the competition included developing technology to increase battery capacity by solving initial capacity loss, a nontoxic formulation of nanoparticles to help destroy cancer tumors without damaging healthy tissue, and a system to monitor bladder volume in individuals with spinal cord injuries.

Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition

Winners of the Burton D. Morgan Business Model Competition, announced in January, took home $28,000 in prizes. Prizes included:

  • First place $12,0000 – Scribal, a medical communication system, developed by Mahdi Al-Husseini, Reid Priestly and Tanner Rothstein.
  • Second place $8,000 – Sole Solutions, a track and field spike cover, developed by Dainon Wray, Cameron Gorski and Daniel Madren.
  • Third place $5,000 – UPLeft, a service rerouting leftover restaurant food to nonprofit organizations, developed by Veronica Galles.
  • Fourth place $3,000 – Quasi, a marketplace for creating things with AI, developed by Shantanu Roy Thomas Stahura.

“The primary outcome of the competition is a learning experience,” Chen said. “We teach students what we call customer discovery, which is less about a business idea, and more about understanding your customers.”

For example, Chen said, many students have an idea to solve a problem they experience, but without proper customer research, they may overlook the fact that the problem isn’t pervasive enough or troublesome enough to support sales. Or, in the case of product pitched to large organizations, the people who experience the problem aren’t the ones who make purchasing decisions.

“We teach students to understand the landscape, how to interview customers, get them to tell you what the problems are and what they’re willing to buy,” Chen said. “Finding a tractable problem that people are willing to pay to solve is the magic behind getting a solid business started.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked in each of the last four years as one of the 10 Most Innovative universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://stories.purdue.edu

Writer: Mary Martialay