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Showcase for budding entrepreneurs

An ag tech business, a company producing a healthy alternative to soda, and an urban homesteader are among the business startup ideas that will vie for cash and services at the Venture Showcase on May 1 at Cal State Monterey Bay.

More than 60 applicants presented their ideas to a panel of judges in March. Twenty-three were selected to develop their ideas further and pitch them to an investor panel at the Startup Challenge Finals on May 1. From that group, three will be selected to compete in the “Otter Tank”competition at the Venture Showcase.

“The idea of the awards is to motivate entrepreneurs and to educate and connect them with the business community,” said Dr. Brad Barbeau, an associate professor of economics and entrepreneurship at the university and executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development.

The Startup Challenge is an annual competition that provides an opportunity for prospective entrepreneurs, start-ups and emerging companies to showcase their ideas and business concepts. The Challenge connects regional entrepreneurs to funders, consultants, support programs and venture capitalists.

It includes three divisions: Venture, for businesses intended to grow into large enterprises; Main Street, for small businesses; and Student, for high school through graduate students. Fourteen ideas advanced in the VentureDivision; five in the Main Street division; and four in the Student Division. The Venture winner will receive $20,000 cash and $10,000 in legal and other services; $7,500 cash goes to the Main Street winner; and the student winner gets $1,500.

“We provide workshops and mentors for participants,” Dr. Barbeau said. “The program gives them the experience of pitching a new business, and you have to think very carefully about your business as you go through the process.”

The public is invited to the Venture Showcase where they will have the opportunity to see contestants’ exhibits, hear speakers on entrepreneurship, network and watch the inaugural “Otter Tank” competition in the Venture Division. While the event is free, attendees are asked to register.

The event will be held in the University Center on Sixth Avenue and B Street.


3 p.m. – Exhibit hall opens.

4-6 p.m. – Watch the three finalists in the Venture Division compete in the “Otter Tank”

6-7 p.m. – Reception