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Second annual innovateUNG student startup contest will send winner to state event

Georgia InVenture Prize
Caleb Hearn and Samuel Herrera won innovateUNG in 2019 and advanced to the Georgia InVenture Prize, where they finished in the top five. Registration for the innovateUNG 2020 student startup contest opens Nov. 16. The event is Feb. 25.

Dr. Ruben Boling is in search of more students with innovations that could turn into a business.

The director of the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will hold the innovateUNG 2020 student startup contest on Feb. 25. Registration opens Nov. 16 for students who would like to compete.

The winner will advance to the second annual Georgia InVenture Prize student startup contest set for April 1-2, 2020, in Atlanta. UNG's team of Caleb Hearn and Sam Herrera finished in the top five of 19 teams at the inaugural state event April 3-4, 2019.

"We have students who have great ideas for inventions and innovations. What we saw last year was the strength of that in the six teams that competed in innovateUNG," Boling said. "I really believe that the creativity and innovation of our students will shine again in the next innovateUNG. I expect some great competition."

In the UNG challenge, students will pitch their creative innovations in front of experienced and successful entrepreneurs and financial experts in an effort to win cash and other prizes.


A mix of internal and external judges will determine the top two prizes, while voting at a designated time during the competition by those attending the event will determine the People's Choice award.

The winning pitch from UNG will be innovative and have market potential. The winner of the UNG contest will receive $2,000, while second place will earn $1,500 and the People's Choice winner will collect $500.

Students can work individually or in teams of up to five people as part of innovateUNG. Registration is open through Feb. 2. Contestants must be full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students in any major from UNG's five campuses. They can register for the contest online starting Nov. 16. 

If students are unsure about an idea or how to pitch it, Boling said the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation can help. Assistance is available by emailing

Last year's winning team of Hearn and Herrera created an app ⁠— Opus Affinity ⁠— that targets craft breweries and wineries. Their win at the inaugural innovateUNG propelled them to the state event in Atlanta, where they shared their innovation on GPB.

"InnovateUNG gave me an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand the skills and mindset that entrepreneurship can provide, as well as a unique look into both the entrepreneurial and investor worlds," Hearn said. "Innovate will always be one of my best and most cherished learning experiences at UNG, and I am excited to see what other teams in the coming years bring to the table."

Sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the state contest will include participants from the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia. The Georgia InVenture Prize finals will be televised.

UNG will provide coaching for its winning team ahead of the state competition, as well as offering a course on pitching for all finalists. Boling said that training, education and coaching will be valuable for pitch contest participants.

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