Do you have a breakthrough business idea? Are you ready to launch the next big startup? For ten years, the Minnesota Cup competition--the largest statewide new venture competition in the United States-- has supported and accelerated the development of innovative business ideas from around the state. In 2014, the Cup opens for entries on March 24th. State residents have until May 9th to submit entries to compete for $300,000 in prize money.
The Minnesota Cup competition is free -- and provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs, inventors or small business owners working on innovative new business concepts, or for those who have already started a business but are generating less than $1 million in yearly revenue, to help move to the next phase. And in 2014, a new category joins the lineup: the Food/Agriculture/Beverage division has been added to the six returning divisions: Energy/Clean Tech/Water, General, High Tech, LifeScience/Health IT, Social and Student. For more information on each category, and details on how to enter, visit the Minnesota Cup website.
More than 8,000 Minnesotans have participated in the Minnesota Cup since its first year, in 2005. Finalists from the last five years have gone on to raise nearly $75 million in capital to support the development of their business ideas.
"For the tenth anniversary of the competition, we hope to involve even more Minnesotans -- with a new division and more prize money," says Scott Litman, co-founder of the Minnesota Cup. "When we started the Minnesota Cup 10 years ago, our hope was to have the competition be the first step in launching a business in Minnesota. To date, the Minnesota Cup has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build better business plans and work towards achieving business success. We are always continuing our work to grow the Minnesota Cup and further establish it as a permanent feature of our state's business landscape."
Each entry must contain a description of the product or service, explanation of the market size or opportunity, a sales and marketing overview, brief operating plan and high level financial projections and assumptions. After three rounds of judging, a finalist and runner-up will be announced for each division, with the finalist receiving a cash prize of $30,000 and the runner-up receiving $5,000, with the exception of the Student and Social divisions, which will be awarded $20,000. In addition, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation is providing $25,000 in seed funding to the top entry from that region of the state.
After the first selection round, in June, judges will invite the top entries in each division to move on to the semifinals in July. Final division selection takes place in August, when category winners are announced. Each round advanced by competitors means opportunities to explore business ideas, gain exposure, learn about available business resources, be paired with Minnesota Cup mentors, and meet members of the Minnesota Cup Review Board.
The tenth annual Minnesota Cup will culminate with an awards event on September 10, 2014 at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center. At that event, the judges will announce a grand prize winner from the category winners -- and that business will be awarded $50,000 in seed money. Last year's grand prize went to Preceptis Medical, Inc., a medical device manufacturer developing surgical tools allowing ear tube procedures to be performed with reduced pain and surgical time for a pediatric patient. A LifeScience & Health IT division winner, the company was selected from almost 1,100 Minnesotans in last year's competition. Recently, Preceptis Medical announced it had landed a $1.2 million investment from Gopher Angels, an angel investor network.
"I'm amazed by the positive publicity and support that our division and grand prize win has generated," said Steve Anderson, CEO of Preceptis Medical, winner of the 2013 Minnesota Cup. "Our participation in the Minnesota Cup provided strong affirmation to the medical community and our investors-- and certainly helped us successfully close our Series A round of financing in January 2014."
Host sponsors of The 2014 Minnesota Cup competition include Wells Fargo and the University of Minnesota. Other lead sponsors include Carlson, Digital River, General Mills and UnitedHealth Group. Supporting sponsors include Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Blandin Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cleantech Open, 301 Inc., The Collaborative, The Digging LLC, ecomagination, Eide Bailly, Fredrikson and Byron, Gopher Angels, Gray Plant Mooty, Initiative Foundation, LifeScience Alley, Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company, Magnet 360, Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand, Messerli & Kramer, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, MN Department of Employment and Economic Development, Minnesota High Tech Association, Minnesota Venture Capital Association, MOJO MN, The Mosaic Company, Proto Labs, Inc., Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Southwest Initiative Foundation, SixSpeed, Split Rock Partners, Spoken Impact, Stinson Leonard Street, Stoel Rives, StarTec Investments, TECHdotMN and West Central Initiative Foundation.
The Minnesota Cup is an annual competition that seeks to support and accelerate the development of the best breakthrough ideas from across Minnesota -- and is celebrating its 10th year in 2014. For more information and to enter, please visit www.breakthroughideas.org.