Finger on tablet with a digital image and the word Startup

A New Pitch Competition for UVM Students Has a $200K Cash Prize 

Source: Seven Days

Would-be entrepreneurs at the University of Vermont received a bracing shot of good news: A new business competition has been founded that will yield annual awards worth more than $200,000.

The Joy and Jerry Meyers Cup contest, which starts in the fall semester, establishes a cash award for the undergraduate or team that comes up with a great idea and a solid plan for turning it into a business. Team members can be from any department or major at UVM, but at least one must be a senior who, after graduating, will make a full-time job of establishing the business.

Chip and Louise Meyers are California residents who created and named the prize in honor of Chip’s parents, who graduated from UVM in the 1950s. The couple plan to donate $250,000 annually for a decade to pay for the award. Finalists and winners are also promised mentoring and professional advice worth thousands of dollars from local entrepreneurs, investors, accountants and lawyers.

The first-place cash prize, which is expected to be worth about $212,000, is intended to provide living expenses for the young entrepreneurs while they turn their business idea into a going concern. The rest of the $250,000 goes to administrative expenses and a $2,000 award that semifinalists receive before the finals to help them prepare.

“I’ve found if you’re doing a startup, usually you’re scraping by. You have your full-time job, and you’re working on this on the side,” said Chip Meyers, a serial entrepreneur who owns a technology business. He noted that Hula, the Burlington coworking and tech incubator space owned by entrepreneur Russ Scully, has pledged to provide free office space to the winners. “We wanted to make sure they really did this for two years and gave it the full shot,” Meyers said.

The size of the Meyers Cup cash prize is unheard of in Vermont, where awards in most business competitions max out at $20,000 or so. Other programs rely on providing participants free access to experts, investors and well-connected mentors who can help businesses take off. Those contests have aided some founders in creating successful companies, including Mamava, Benchmark Space Systems and Vermont Tortilla. But they don’t provide enough money for people to work full time on their startups. 

Read the full Seven Days article.

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