Competition winners and job creation

Since the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) launched the Business Plan Competition in early 1998, 891 student teams have gone for the gold. And 95 of those teams divvied up nearly $1.1 million in prize money. Launching companies out of a competition is relatively easy. But what was their impact on job creation on the Washington state economy?

In May 2011, CIE undertook a brief survey of 38 companies that had launched as a result of the competition and were still in business. 28 of the 38 companies responded to the survey: 15 consumer product/retail companies, 5 tech firms, 4 life-science companies and 4 in clean technology. Combined, these companies employed 640 people, with 220 of them earning more than $75,000 a year.

Among the additional findings:

  • More than $60 million in venture capital has been raised (17 companies raised $250,000+ and 12 raised $500,000+). 8 companies chose to bootstrap.
  • $92.7 million in anticipated revenues for 2011 (with 13 projecting more than $1 million).
  • 3 companies made it on the 2010 Inc 500 list of fastest-growing private companies.

Responders’ thoughts captured the intangible value of the Business Plan Competition:

“I like to tell people that I was a PhD student in mechanical engineering,” said one founder, in his comments about the event, “but I got an MBA from the UW Business Plan Competition. Because honestly, I’m not sure what else I could learn from business school that I didn’t learn from the competition. None of this [success] would have been possible without CIE and the UW Business Plan Competition. Because of the competition we were able to make a lot of our mistakes before they counted and could derail our business.”

“Believe it or not, we went through the fire of the investment round three times,” said another, “and got asked all of the tough questions. So when it was time to do it for real, we were grizzled veterans of the process. If it weren’t for all we got from the Business Plan Competition, we would have never gotten off of the ground and I would probably be working for someone else’s start-up in Minneapolis or the Bay Area. Instead, I have people working for me here in Seattle. CIE helps make dreams come true.”

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