Largest state venture competition in the country will offer record $327,000 in prize money
MINNEAPOLIS – The 11th annual Minnesota Cup — the largest statewide entrepreneurial competition in the United States — is accepting applications for the 2015 contest. Minnesota residents have until May 8to submit entries to compete for a record $327,000 in prize money.
The Minnesota Cup is an opportunity for entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors, small business owners working on innovative business concepts, or businesses generating less than $1 million in yearly revenue to move their ideas to the next level.
The 2015 divisions are energy/clean technology/water; food/agriculture/beverage; general; high tech; life science/health IT; social entrepreneur; and student.
“More than 9,000 Minnesotans have participated in the Minnesota Cup since its inception in 2005,” said DEED Deputy Commissioner Kevin McKinnon. “This competition encourages Minnesota small businesses to grow their ideas and has helped elevate finalists to attract over $170 million in additional capital.”
“Every year the excitement and energy around this competition grows, and every year we strive to find new ways to involve even more Minnesotans statewide,” said Scott Litman, co-founder of the Minnesota Cup. “Last year, we connected with a new category of entrepreneurs through our new food, agriculture and beverage division, and this year we are working to grow the field of female entrepreneurs with our Women in Entrepreneurship series.”
Each entry must contain a description of the product or service, explanation of the market size or opportunity, a sales and marketing overview, brief operating plan, and high level financial projections and assumptions. After three rounds of judging, a finalist and runner-up will be announced for each division.
Each finalist will receive a cash prize of $30,000, while the runner-up will receive $5,000. In addition, AARP will award a $5,000 prize for an innovation that improves the lives of seniors, and two audience favorite winners will receive an additional $1,000 each. Again this year, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation will provide $25,000 in seed funding to the top entry from that region of the state.
After the first selection round in June, judges will invite the top entries in each division to move on to the semifinals in July. Final division selection takes place in August, when category winners are announced. Each round advanced by competitors means opportunities to explore business ideas, gain exposure, learn about available business resources, pair up with Minnesota Cup mentors, and meet members of the Minnesota Cup Review Board.
The competition will culminate with an awards event on Sept. 9 at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center. At that event, the judges will announce a grand prize winner – chosen from the seven category winners — and that business will be awarded $50,000 in seed money.
Last year’s grand prize went to 75F, maker of cloud-based software that controls office HVAC systems to produce energy savings. The company, which was selected for more than 1,300 competitors, has since received capital investments from AOL co-founder Steve Case, in addition to being named the national Energy Efficiency Division winner and People’s Choice winner of the 2014 Cleantech Open Global Forum.
“The Minnesota Cup is a wonderful way to bring attention to new opportunities that have real potential in filling existing voids, particularly within the energy and clean tech sector,” said Deepinder Singh, founder of Mankato-based 75F. “Since winning the cup, my company has gone from strength to strength, earning industry recognition and generating substantial capital. It’s been a tremendous experience all around.”
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is among the sponsors of the Minnesota Cup.
For more information and details on how to enter the 2015 competition, visit www.mncup.org.