The 2015 Colorado State University Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge began accepting applications on Dec. 1. Chosen applicants will compete in a May 26 to 30 pitch competition for a chance to win capital for their businesses.
Organized by Blue Ocean Enterprises and Colorado State University, the challenge is broken into collegiate and enterprise tracks. The collegiate track offers a $20,000 grand prize, and the enterprise track $250,000.
“We wanted to create an event that celebrates entrepreneurship and small businesses and bring that community together to create awareness and opportunity for small businesses to be found,” said co-coordinator and Blue Ocean Holdings, LLC CEO Kurt Hoeven.
While only students from Colorado universities can apply for the collegiate track, the enterprise competition is open to established businesses from across the United States.
“It is our intention, absolutely, to create national exposure and participation,” Hoeven said. “Last year, we actually had a number of companies in the enterprise competition that were from across the country.”
Local crowdfunding platform Community Funded was a finalist in the 2014 enterprise track.
“It was something that was right in our backyard,” said Ryan Stover, Community Funded co-founder. “We’re a Fort Collins business, so we were excited that there was a major business competition right here in Fort Collins.”
Each year, Blue Ocean organizes a three-day “boot camp” to prepare the competitors for the challenge.
According to Stover, last year they were taught lessons like presenting, raising capital and being true to their vision.
“We learned a lot from the other businesses, from all the learning experiences that were provided,” Stover said. “It kind of feels like a community or even a graduating class that we all went through and experienced together.”
DeYrd, a student venture residing in the CSU owned business incubator The Hatchery, placed second in last year’s Trolley Pitch Competition, a third event that will be returning to the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge next year.
Putting an Old Town twist on the classic “elevator pitch,” competitors wait in groups at various stops along Mountain Avenue. The first business on-board has two minutes to present its pitch to a four-judge panel before rotating with another business at the next stop.
“Overall, it was a great learning experience,” said DeYrd Chief Marketing Officer Sam Morgan. “The experience of competing, having to put our pitch together, going on the trolley and doing all that helped us hone and develop our presentation skills.”
According to Christine Chin, CSU Institute for Entrepreneurship interim director and Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge co-coordinator, Fort Collins ranked second on the Kauffman Foundation 2013 top ten U.S. metro areas for high-tech startup density.
Of those 10 metro areas, four are in Colorado: Boulder, Fort Collins, Denver and Colorado Springs.
“By having this competition, it further brings this national spotlight to what we’re doing here at CSU and what we’re doing here in the region,” Chin said. “We also hope that it means venture capitalists and angel investors will continue to see the Northern Colorado area as a great place for entrepreneurship.”
The deadline to apply for both tracks is 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2015. Businesses can submit their applications via the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge website.
“Be yourself and let your passion and enthusiasm really shine through,” Stover said. “Don’t get too hung up on winning or losing. Just enjoy the whole experience, because it’s a great one.”
Collegian Business and Technology Beat Reporter Nicholas LeVack can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NicholasLeVack.