The Lulu eGames, NC State’s largest annual startup competition, draws the attention of student and faculty entrepreneurs from across campus. This year 130+ entrepreneurs entered the competition to battle for over $100,000 in award money. A group of volunteer judges hand-picked 19 finalist teams to advance to the second round of our highly competitive startup competition. For the first time since its inception in 2009, ten final round winners were announced virtually via a Facebook Live video stream on April 8, 2020. Student teams walked away with anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000.
The competition is composed of two tracks – the student track, where solo-preneurs or teams can compete, and the Daugherty Endowment track, available to university spin-out companies. Student teams can compete across five different categories: Arts Venture, IBM Built on Cloud, Social and Environmental Impact, Design and Prototype and New Venture. The Social and Environmental Impact category, is hosted by the Poole College of Management’s Business Sustainability Collaborative. The category is for student ventures that are using the power of business to solve social and environmental issues.
First-round participants are required to submit a robust application, covering 15 aspects of their business, along with a video pitch. After a round of deliberation, teams are selected to advance to the final round. Finalists are then evaluated on their business plan and final pitch they historically deliver in front of live judges and a live audience at Stewart Theater in Talley Student Union. However, this year, things were far from normal.
About 3 weeks shy of the live competition, the university released a memo in response to COVID-19, closing or significantly limiting core services and facilities at the university and limiting the amount of students on campus. This meant there were only two options for this year’s event – cancel the competition or prepare a virtual “plan B”. But canceling the competition was not an option for NC State Entrepreneurship.
In times like these, it is invaluable to think like an entrepreneur, view challenges as opportunities, use creativity, and above all, find ways to create value.
“We felt that it was important to think creatively and come up with a way to complete the competition and reward the students who had worked so hard to prepare,” said Tom Miller, senior vice provost and executive director of NC State Entrepreneurship. “We also thought that announcing the winners via Facebook Live would provide a welcome respite to the Wolfpack community, which was reeling with difficult impacts of the pandemic.”
This is why it is more important than ever to support our student entrepreneurs and award their innovation and creativity. “Think and do, that’s what NC State is all about” said Miller, and the eGames are a perfect example of how students are fulfilling that motto.
Ritika Shamdasani, Co-Founder of Sani, a sister-owned South Asian fashion label focused on South Asian American women and this year’s grand prize winner of $15,000 stated, “we are so grateful that eGames continued to host the competition despite the uncertainty right now. As a small business, we have been hit hard by the pandemic like many others. This eGames award has made it possible for us to still push forward in many ways so that we can bounce back stronger than ever.”
Social and Environmental Impact Winners
1st place – $5,000 | Summit Kinetics: Giving the freedom of movement back to those in need via a passive lower-body exoskeleton.
Team members: Alyssa Cox, Amy Hogan, Ethan Eldridge, Jennifer Lo, Jacob Harris
2nd place – $3,000 | Sani: A South Asian fashion label focused on South Asian American women.
Team member: Ritika Shamdasani
3rd place – $2,000 | Kalia Health: A biotech startup dedicated to improving women’s health in low-resource settings.
Team member: Denali Dahl
Social and Environmental Impact Category Sponsors
Many thanks to the Social and Environmental Impact category sponsors, local B Corporations:
Adapted from “Innovation and Creativity are Rewarded at the 2020 Lulu eGames.”