Colorado College has a bigger vision for its year-old "Big Idea" business plan competition.
The college plans to expand the "Big Idea" into an Innovation Institute that would be created next fall, but longtime Colorado Springs startup executive Patrick Bultema is already getting things rolling. He's resurrecting a lecture series, launching a short course on startups and providing opportunities to connect local entrepreneurs with CC students to develop companies.
Bultema, former CEO of local technology startup CodeBaby Corp., is heading the effort to create the institute as a way for the small, liberal arts college to help local inventors and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses.
First on his agenda is giving those inventors and entrepreneurs a chance to present their business idea to the school's students in hopes of recruiting one or more of them to spend the ensuing five months helping turn their idea into a business.
"We are essentially doing a startup (organization) to do startups," Bultema said Wednesday. "We are having an adoption fair for entrepreneurs where they can make a five-minute pitch to students to join their team. Our commitment is that real ventures will come out of this. and that would be good for the community, the students and the faculty. It will give students a chance to work on a real startup."
He also said the program plans to bring in local innovators and entrepreneurs to talk to students and serve as mentors and advisers to student teams entered in the "Big Idea" competition.
The adoption fair will be 4 to 5 p.m. Oct. 31 at the college's Worner Campus Center, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St., for inventors and entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to students. To participate, entrepreneurs should contact Bultema at patrick.bultema@ColoradoCollege.edu.
The college will again award $50,000 to student teams during the final stage of the competition on April 1. The top prize this year went to Brayn, a company started by a Colorado College student and a local marketing executive that developed a smartphone application for measuring brain waves of people with epilepsy.
As part of the efforts to create the Innovation Institute, the college also is bringing back its "Innovative Mind" lecture series, starting with a speech next month by Jon Dean, who spent nearly nine years at video gaming giant Electronic Arts before leaving last month to lead a startup to develop mobile gaming software. Bultema said the institute has scheduled two other lectures by startup executives and hopes to line up three more speakers for the series before the end of the college's academic year in May.
The institute also plans to offers a two-week course, or half of its 3?-week traditional block, in January that will be a boot camp to teach students how to start a company. Bultema hopes the class and Big Idea competition will result in students starting several companies during the next few months.
"We are seeking to weave innovation throughout the liberal arts program so it is relevant to art or economics majors. Some of the best innovations come from unlikely places," Bultema said.
Bultema said he and college officials will spend the next year developing the structure of the institute, finding a location and raising money to fund it. The institute will have a broad focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, including small business, venture-capital funded businesses and nonprofits, he said.
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