The leaders of UConn’s highly successful Innovation Quest (iQ) competition have stated that there are millions of diverse ideas that can create thriving startups.
But one irreversible dynamic separates those who succeed from those who fail.
“The key to success is that you have to constantly innovate,” says Rich Dean, director of the iQ program, who is also a serial entrepreneur and a distinguished associate professor. “Our entrepreneurs are learning to ‘hear the footsteps behind them’ and are accelerating forward through constant innovation.”
The startup competition starts on February 9
Now he has 11th In the year of Innovation Quest – a student-centered startup competition – better than ever, says Keith Fox ’80 (BUS), who created the program here. Students and graduate students from any of UConn’s schools or colleges can participate in the competition. As they progress through the program, students receive mentorship from experts in business planning, technology, patent law, marketing, finance, and more.
The top three finalists will receive $ 15,000, $ 10,000 and $ 5,000 for their startups. The best of the contestants are invited to participate in the Summer InQbator program from iQ, which helps them further promote their programs and ideas.
This year’s events will be held virtually because of COVID. The initial seminar is on February 9 at 6:30 p.m., the additional seminars are on February 16, March 2 and 9. The deadline for official applications is March 23. For more information or to register for the kick-off workshop, please visit: innovationquest.uconn.edu.
“We’re expecting an emergency turnout,” Dean says. “UConn students are more aware than ever of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists here, and many have decided to come to UConn to take part in it. Our students are full of incredible ideas. ”
Ideas are becoming more complex
IQ members have created businesses that engage in everything from medical innovation to healthier fish food, unique sports equipment to cancer and artificial limb treatments to healthy drinks.
Last year, Raina Jane ’24 (BUS), who was then still a freshman, took first place with her QueenBee immune support app. Alumni Tim Krupski ’15 (ENG) and Jeremy Bronen ’20 (ENG) took second place with Sedentary Medical Solutions, a toilet care product for the elderly or disabled. And Jake Winter (22) and Massyl Mallem ’23 (ENG) took third place for Patent Plus, a software tool based on artificial intelligence that helps inventors more easily determine if their invention is unique.
“The Innovation Quest was formulated specifically for UConn students,” says Dean. “We welcome students with open arms because they have an idea that they want to move forward, or because they would like to be able to work with other like-minded people and high-achieving people.”
“Now the ideas are more perfect than ever,” says Dean. “Our program does not provide a magic formula that automatically makes you a successful entrepreneur. When students are deeply convinced that this is what they want, we make it clear to them that we will go with them on a journey and will accompany them throughout the journey. ”
The iQ program highlights three key factors: creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurial thinking, says Fox, who has worked as a top executive at Apple and Cisco.
“Whether you’re starting a company or not, these skills are invaluable in the workplace,” Fox says. “We teach opportunities. We will push you to innovate, learn and compete. ”
High-class teachers shape students ’experiences
One of the highlights of the program is its wide range of business teachers, Fox says. Over the past decade, many business experts have taught UConn iQ students, and the advice they offered has been invaluable, Fox says.
“Our teachers have been a profound and valuable resource for students to fill a gap in skill sets and experience,” says Dean. “None of the teachers work for their own financial gain, other than what they get from working with the best and brightest. They want to help promote ideas and provide the resources they want to have for both students and young entrepreneurs. The program is built on the shoulders of our mentors, that’s where the horsepower is. “
The program benefits both our students and our state
Fox learned about the iQ program while serving on the Presidential Advisory Board at Cal Poly and brought the program to UConn. Hundreds of students participate in a typical year. But apart from helping individual students, his success has established entrepreneurship as a priority at UConn.
“It was very nice to watch it grow. It started with an idea and just rose. Last year was a big milestone and we celebrated a decade of success, “says Fox.” We’ve had about 700 teams involved in iQ since its inception, and that means thousands of students have raised their hands to say they want to explore entrepreneurship. We need to celebrate it. “
“Ultimately, the biggest winner in this competition is the entire state of Connecticut,” says Fox. “I graduated from UConn in 1980 and was an entrepreneur, co-owner of my own computer store. Connecticut was based on entrepreneurship and innovation, and today it is very much alive here. ”