TAMPA —Nearly 500 student entrepreneurs, and their faculty advisors, were in downtown Tampa last weekend for the 38th Annual Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO) Conference and Pitch Competition.
One of the highlights of the conference was the $15,000 Global Pitch Competition. Student-entrepreneurs had five minutes to pitch their startup business ideas to a panel of judges, for a chance to win prize money. The winners of the competition were:
· First place and $7,000: Jonaie Johnson of Interplay (University of Missouri-Kansas City);
· Second place and $5,00: Alexsandra Wolfe of Pure-sipity (The University of Tampa);
· 3rd place, $3,000 went to: Blake Espeland of Sprayer-Mods LLC (University of Iowa).
The conference also featured a university awards program that recognized the top chapters in the CEO network. The following categories were awarded to the following institutions:
Outstanding CEO Chapter Leader:
· First place: Jacob Woolf (University of Central Florida)
· Second place: Ibrahim Shoukat (Middle East College)
Outstanding Chapter Advisor:
· First place: Lou Paris (Stetson University)
· Second place: Jim Hunter (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Outstanding Marketing and Social Media Award:
· First place: University of North Carolina, Greensboro
· Second place: University of Nebraska Omaha
Best Cross Campus Innovation and Networking Award:
· First place: The University of Tampa
· Second place: Bryant University
Global Chapter of the Year:
· First place: Texas State University
· Second place: Bryant University
Collegiate Entrepreneur of the Year:
· William Shahroze Ali and Suryanuj Gupta (University of Delaware)
Students attending the conference also had the chance to compete in teams against one another for cash prizes in the Marketplace Simulation Challenge. This half-day, fast-paced competition allowed teams to compete within a simulated business ecosystem to start and manage their own businesses. The winners of the 2021 Marketplace Simulation Challenge were:
First place: Lightning MEC’ Queen (Middle East College)
Syeda Aliza Ali
Second place: IoWins (University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University)
Third place: X-LR8 (Ohio University)
With a similar mission to CEO, the Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy was a featured participant at the conference, running an esports tournament of its soon-to-be-released Venture Valley game. This fast-paced free multiplayer mobile and PC business strategy game – the Venture Valley E-Sports Tournament — gave CEO attendees the opportunity to take on the role of an entrepreneur, pitting their business savvy against that of others in a risk-free environment. Walking away with a $2,000 grand prize, Shahroze Ali was the top entrepreneur, growing his revenue to $11.2 million. As CEO attendees built their ventures and fought off rivals, they learned real business and market skills and gained experience.
Shelley Miles, CEO of the Singleton Foundation, said Venture Valley opened up a new way for players to engage in discussions of running a business that wasn’t purely based around textbook readings. She said it was an amazing experience to have student entrepreneurs at the CEO event play the first ever look of the Singleton Foundation’s Venture Valley game, which is currently in closed beta.
“The competition was pretty fierce! We saw a great level of engagement and intense discussions about strategy as students fought off their rivals to win the $2,000 tournament prize,” Miles said. “Students put their business strategies to the test while providing us with valuable feedback.”
The 2021 conference was sponsored by The University of Tampa, Amazon Web Service, (AWS), Hillsborough County EDi2, The John E. Hughes Foundation, Marketplace Simulations, WaveBuilder, Visit Tampa Bay, AAA, and Texas Christian University.
In an effort to create a more inclusive conference and to ensure BIPOC college students faced no financial barriers in attending the conference, WaveBuilder sponsored a Black, Indigenous and People of Color Scholarship. This scholarship covered the full registration cost for 20 BIPOC students.
The Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), based in The University of Tampa’s Lowth Entrepreneurship Center, a part of Sykes College of Business, is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit corporation whose mission is to “inform, support and inspire college students to be entrepreneurial and to seek opportunity through enterprise creation.” From its inception in 1984, the organization has grown to approximately 16,500 members, representing nearly 250 college- and university-based chapters.