UST Fowler Business Concept Challenge Recognizes Emerging Tech Entrepreneurs



University of St. Thomas students Nikhil Dama and Tim van Laarhoven pose with Ron Fowler (L) and Dr. Laura Dunham (R) after winning the 2015 Challenge.

The seventh annual University of St. Thomas – Fowler Business Concept Challenge has once again recognized aspiring student entrepreneurs by awarding tens of thousands in scholarships.  Established in 2009, the mission is to “encourage students to act on their ideas and develop business proposals that have potential to become viable, high-growth companies.”

The Challenge is named after 1966 St. Thomas graduate Ron Fowler, chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments Inc., and principal owner of the San Diego Padres.

The all day affair happened on Friday, November 20th at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship within the Opus College of Business, in downtown Minneapolis.  104 students entered from 29 different majors this year, representing 64 different concepts. The grand prize winners of this year include:

[graduate] Julie Carlson – an online marketplace for retailers to sell clearance appliances.

[undergraduate] EasyEatz: Nikhil Dama, Scott Laska, Peter (Tim) van Laarhoven – a platform for matching consumers with home-cooks to buy authentic homemade food.

[social] elate: Katie Hasslinger & Aaron Redepenning – a smart bracelet worn by the blind that scans a sticker on a restaurant menu, then reads the menu aloud through a Bluetooth connected device.

$59,500 in scholarships were awarded, bringing the grand total to approximately $350,000 in scholarships awarded since inception.

Assistant Director, Communications and External Relations, Jon Keimig says that on average, three concepts per year turn into actual standalone companies — citing some non-tech examples that have since received follow-on funding from the Norris Institute.  While it’s unclear if recent tech winners are still going and growing [2013] [2014] the 2012 Graduate Winner ‘Coach App’ has become a standalone product in Delaget’s restaurent technology suite.


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