Launch VT Collegiate Finalists Prepare for Competition Top Vermont Student Entrepreneurs to Pitch Business Ideas on Feb. 19 at Champlain College

College Entrepreneurs Vying for $7,500 Prize and Spot in Statewide Competition

BURLINGTON, Vt. -- Launch VT Collegiate is coming to Champlain College on Feb. 19 and will feature top college student entrepreneurs from campuses across Vermont vying for a spot in the finals of Launch VT, a statewide business pitch competition offering a $30,000 first prize.

The effort to create the competition aimed at college students has been led by Champlain College's Build Your Own Business (BYOBiz) Director Robert Bloch, who worked to bring nine Vermont higher education institutions together with the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Vermont Small Business Development Center.

The Champlain College Competition was held Feb. 2 to select the College's representative.

"The program enables our student entrepreneurs, both social entrepreneurs or those more commercially inclined to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. If they succeed, they can move all the way to the finals of LaunchVT, with a first prize of $30,000 cash plus approximately $45,000 of important “payment in kind” business services, e.g. legal, accounting and marketing services," Bloch explained.

Participating this year will be Champlain College, Middlebury College, University of Vermont, Norwich University, Saint Michael's College, Castleton State College, Johnson State College, Vermont Technical College, and Lyndon State College.

Mentoring the student Entrepreneurs

Each institution will select a student entrepreneur/entrepreneurial team to represent the institution at the Feb. 19 LaunchVT Collegiate Finals, which will be held at Champlain College's Alumni Auditorium from 3 to 6 p.m. Recent Champlain College graduate Jack Carpenter '15 will MC the free event that is open to the public.

Each collegiate team will have 10 minutes to present their business pitch, followed by Q&A. It need not be an operating business. A panel of three judges will determine if the plan is viable and offers a likelihood of meaningful growth and successful business. The winning team will receive a cash prize of $7,500 and the opportunity to participate as a finalist in the LaunchVT competition on May 5.

"It is important to note that college-age students have fared well in the past three LaunchVT events, including winning two of the three years it has been held," Bloch said.

Thermouse's Champlain College student Matthew Giles '19 & University of Vermont student Cullen Jemison '18

First-year student Matthew Giles ’19, an International Business major, and his partner, sophomore Cullen Jemison, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Vermont, were selected at the Champlain College representative based on their pitch for a start-up company called "Thermouse," which is developing an ergonomically superior computer mouse. They received a $2,000 prize from BYOBiz.

Black Market U Project Manager Josh Miller, Founder David Helebert and Lead Developer Jonah Allibone.

Earning second place was David Helebert ’16, who pitched his company "Black Market U," a commercial version of the Champlain Black Market Facebook page, which Helebert created along with Josh Miller ’16, Jonah Allibone ’18, and Peter Orzell ’16. The prize was $500.

Michael Roberts, Vsevolod Tysh and Jadd Serhan of Ici/La.

Rounding out the competition in third place was founder Vsevolod (Sev) Tysh ’16, who pitched an online service called "Ici/La" to provide a social networking site for "foreigners in a foreign land”, along with Chief Marketing Officer Jadd Serhan ’16 and Chief Technology Officer Michael Roberts '18. The prize was $100.

The judges review the proposals before announcing the winner in the Launch VT Collegiate Champlain College Competition.

Judges for the Champlain College competition were Ken Merritt, founder, Merritt, Merritt & Moulton; Tim Volk, partner, KSV; Doug Hartwell, founder and CEO of Bitybean; and Jeremy Kent, CEO Budnitz Bicycles.

  • Likelihood of building a successful business.
  • Scalability: Potential to grow a sizable & meaningful company over time.
  • Potential to generate significant employment in Vermont

The companies that best represents these goals receive:

  • First Prize: $30K in cash awards and $45K in in-kind support.
  • Second Place Prize: $15K in cash awards plus $25K of in-kind support.
  • Mentoring – Each team selected will be paired with an entrepreneurial mentor.
  • No equity positions will be taken by LaunchVT.
Student entrepreneurs get some post-presentation advice on how to sharpen their pitches before the Feb. 19 competition.
Created By
Stephen Mease
Stephen Mease Photography / Champlain College

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