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Duke Start Up Challenge Turns 5

Duke Start-Up Challenge Set for April 24 with $100,000 in Prizes and Keynoter David Oreck of Vacuum Cleaner Fame

April 09, 2004

Did you know that students in your own backyard are changing the world? Developing genetically engineered corn that could solve the world's hunger issues? Producing liquid crystal digital projection systems that could show up in your next TV? If not, then you need to catch up with The Duke Start Up Challenge. The Duke Start-Up Challenge celebrates its five year anniversary this year, and in its short life it has produced some of the most innovative technologies to come out of the Triangle.

The contest has come a long way since a group of Duke University undergraduates decided to try to structure a contest to enhance the world-renowned undergraduate and graduate programs at the school. The Challenge was conceived as a program offering education, experience and entrepreneurial exploration. What was born is a three-phase competition, which awards over $90,000 to top commercial businesses, and over $10,000 to businesses competing in the social enterprise track of the competition. Teams spend over six months building management teams, formulating business plans and developing core technology.

For Duke, the Challenge provides a unique outlet for its students to gain valuable experience in the world of entrepreneurship: everything from marketing and finance, to product development and sales. For the Triangle, it provides a much needed source of capital for innovative ideas and business plans. The only rule? That one Duke student hold a position on the management team.

Phase I of the competition began in September with team formulation. Introductory events were held at the engineering, law, and business schools to enhance Duke-wide participation. The preliminary phase concluded in November with submission of an executive summary for judging and Phase II team selection. Finalists must prepare a presentation for the last phase of competition in the spring. Teams in Phase III will prepare a presentation that they will give 3-4 times to live panels of judges, including high-powered venture capitalists and entrepreneurs from across the nation.

Past winners include Sundance Genetics, an agricultural genomics company, and MBright, a next generation digital display technology company. Sundance is using its award money to develop a new strain of corn that would, during times of drought or lack of fertilizer, double the cropfield that other strains of corn would normally produce under similar circumstances. MBright is using the funding to begin production on a liquid crystal on silicon digital projection system. The system is designed to enhance brightness and contrast for digital image projection.

This year, 33 commercial enterprise and 14 social enterprise track teams advanced to Phase II of the Duke Start-Up Challenge. Among them, software companies, medical device companies, internet companies and drug discovery companies, to name a few.

The winner will be announced on April 24 th , at an event open to the public at Duke University 's Fuqua School of Business. Those present will include local and national venture capitalists, past and present entrepreneurs and aspiring business leaders. The festivities start at 4:00pm with a keynote speech by David Oreck, the successful entrepreneur and founder of Oreck vacuums. Oreck Corporation is a multimillion dollar force in the vaccum manufacturing and sales business, and continues to experience double digit growth in its fourth decade in operation. Following Mr. Oreck's speech, the winners will be announced, including the crowd favorite $5,000 "People's Choice" winner, voted on by those in attendance.

To find out more about the Duke Start-Up Challenge, visit www.dukestartupchallenge.org .