UC Spirit of Enterprise business competition readies winner for international stage

For nearly a decade, a quiet but dynamic partnership between the University of Cincinnati and Cincom software has grown in prominence, through a business plan completion that prepares the winner for the international stage.

The annual UC Center for Entrepreneurship Spirit of Enterprise Graduate Business Plan Competition kicks off Feb. 23, and is an intense 36-hour contest where graduate students from across the country and Canada have their business plans poked, prodded – and for the best – rewarded.

The top plan wins the $10,000 Cincom Spirit of Champion Award, and earns an automatic bid to the international 2012 Venture Labs Investment Competition, formerly the Moot Corp competition at The University of Texas at Austin.

This year teams from 16 universities will compete at the UC event, which will be held at Cincom Systems Cincinnati headquarters. In addition to UC students, teams from Brigham Young, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon universities will compete as well, says Cincom Finance Director Dan Vogel.

Vogel, who has served as a competition judge in the past, says the contest is open to any type of business idea. Entries have been varied, from medical devices and software to a new liqueur. In recent years, more of the entries have focused on biotechnology and research-based medical devices.

“We get some partnering of MBA students and the medical research department testing out ideas to see if they are commercially viable,” Vogel says.

The plans represent a shift in Ohio’s economy, one that relied on traditional manufacturing jobs to one that increasingly is turning to innovation, technology and research in job creation.

“In the Midwest in particular we are evolving from an economy based on manufacturing to one that is more services and researched based, and when you look at the number of top research schools in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, a lot of time and money is being devoted to research,” he says. “The universities are fostering that environment and we are trying to jump on board.”

In addition to the Grand Prize, the competition awards $3,000 the first runner up, $2,000 to the second runner up (sponsored by Queen City Angels First Fund) and a $1,000 to the third runner up.  

The team with the top plan will move on to the Venture Labs Investment Competition in May where they will pitch to potential investors from across the globe and compete for a a prize package worth $135,000. The students will compete against 40 teams from more than 12 countries including Thailand, Norway and Brazil.

By Feoshia Henderson
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