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Pitch challenge seeks students with product ideas

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Gina Urbina Sanchez finished second in the 2020 innovateUNG Pitch Challenge. Applications are now open for the 2021 event.

Applications are now open for the third annual innovateUNG Pitch Challenge, set to be held virtually at 6 p.m. March 16, 2021.

Dr. Ruben Boling, director of UNG's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, would like to have a representative from each campus. Students can apply on the innovateUNG webpage.

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

"Students get a platform for showing their innovative spirit in a competition for an award," Boling said. "It will help them not only to get good feedback on their innovation or business, but it will be a good resume-builder."

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

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

Matthew Byron, a senior from Lilburn, Georgia, pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies, was the winner of the 2020 innovateUNG event. He customized mountain bike pistons to the rider's weight for a smoother ride. Byron appreciated the experience and hopes others will take advantage of the opportunity presented by the 2021 contest.

"It's a good introduction to help you be able to launch a business," Byron said. "It definitely gave me the confidence to know that I had something that could work."

Students can work individually or in teams of up to five people as part of innovateUNG. Registration is open through Feb. 5. Contestants must be full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students in any major from UNG's five campuses or online.

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 cei@ung.edu.

Caleb Hearn and Samuel Herrera won the inaugural innovateUNG event in 2019 and went on to place in the top five at the Georgia InVenture Prize contest that April. Byron's victory advanced him to the 2020 Georgia InVenture Prize event, though it was canceled due to COVID-19.

Though the pandemic ruled out the possibility of a statewide event in spring 2021, Boling said participants in the UNG event still have plenty to gain through coaching and honing their ideas.

"Students have said it was one of the best experiences they've been through," Boling said. "They were scared at first, but it was fun and challenging."

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