With companies vying for $250,000 in cash and other consulting and technical services, Florida’s most lucrative business competition contest is back bigger and better than ever.
This time, the Innovation Awards is also providing more opportunities for individuals to win by tailoring separate prize categories for community college or university students, and veteran-owned businesses. The competition also has categories for pre- and post-revenue businesses.
Innovation Coast and the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at the University of West Florida are funding the 2017 Innovation Awards as part of their commitment to fostering economic opportunity throughout the region. OEDE is providing $150,000 to fund the first and second prizes in the post-revenue category, while Innovation Coast and other sponsors will be funding at least $50,000 for prizes in other categories.
Brice Harris, assistant vice president of research and economic opportunity at UWF, said the success of the first Innovation Awards, held November 2014, proved that Northwest Florida’s entrepreneurs have the vision and talent to compete on a global level.
“We were blown away with the success of the 2014 Innovation Awards program because it showcased the region as a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, specifically in the areas of technology and knowledge-based companies,” Harris said. “We encourage anyone with an interest in technology and knowledge-based services to attend, sponsor or participate in this event so we can continue to demonstrate Northwest Florida’s commitment to its burgeoning innovation ecosystem."
The Innovation Awards is modeled after the popular reality television show “Shark Tank” where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges. During the two-day event on April 12 and 13, 2017, at the Hilton Pensacola Beach hotel, companies whose products or services can demonstrate leverage opportunities and create pathways to robust local job creation will compete for cash prizes ranging from $15,000 to $100,000.
For 2017, the Innovation Awards is recognizing the great source of talent that resides in college classrooms and military bases across the state by awarding a $5,000 cash prize to an entrepreneurial community college or university student, and $10,000 to a veteran-owned business.
“To succeed, entrepreneurs also need an extensive network of trusted advisers and mentors. This network of support is what distinguishes the Innovation Awards from other business plan competitions.”
Jim McClellan, chairman of the Innovation Coast board of directors and director of marketing and communications for AppRiver, said the competition can be a launchpad for startups.
“Taking an idea from concept to market requires more than just an influx of capital,” McClellan said. “To succeed, entrepreneurs also need an extensive network of trusted advisers and mentors. This network of support is what distinguishes the Innovation Awards from other business plan competitions. Individuals emerge from our competition with a comprehensive and integrated business plan that enables them to thrive in a competitive business market.
The winners and presenting finalists of the 2014 Innovation Awards have experienced explosive growth and continued success, which tells us that we are on to something big and we need to continue this effort.”
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