It was for Justin Timlin ’12, Chris Bent ’12, and Patrick Holmes ’13, who successfully competed in last year’s Innovation Challenge and won $10,000. Their project, Crowd Solar, uses a crowd sourcing concept to help community and nonprofit organizations economically purchase renewable energy sources to save money on their electricity. They plan to do this by creating an online platform for people and businesses to invest in local solar projects on community buildings and receive a competitive return on their investments based on the savings the institutions experience from lower energy costs.
Crowd Solar’s innovative concept and success in last year’s Innovation Challenge brought them wide publicity plus an invitation to compete in this year’s Cleantech Open, a similar national competition for promising clean-tech startups. They will participate in the Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator program finals on October 17.
A similar opportunity could be in store for this year’s Innovation Challenge participants. The competition kicks off on October 29 (deadline for application is October 18) with the MinutePitch event where teams test their business ideas without having to develop written plans. The next opportunity to enter and compete is the Executive Summary and Elevator Pitch Competition in December, where teams summarize their business plans and present their elevator pitches. The closed-door Mini-Plan Competition follows in March and emulates an investor boardroom experience where teams pitch their developing ventures to a panel of sponsors for a spot in the Final Business Plan Competition which takes place at the end of the academic year. The final five teams will pitch their business plans to a panel of judges who will award more than $50,000 in prizes.
The Innovation Challenge is open to all UMass students and young alumni from any of the university’s five campuses and since 2005 has awarded over half a million dollars, contributed entirely by private donors, to 65 different student-led teams.