Carlson limits competition to U

Justin Costley

Organizers of this spring’s third annual entrepreneurship competition at the Carlson School of Management are saying goodbye to non-University entrants.
Business Plan Competition overseers have barred outside professionals and entrepreneurs from participating, hoping to bump up the number of students and faculty members who compete for the $30,000 top prize for the best business plan.
“Initially, we decided to open the competition up more broadly,” said Michael Gorman, a general partner with St. Paul Venture Capital and contest chairman.
“What we found is that it dissuaded a number of students from participating because they felt that they would be competing with people who are up and running and that it would be an unfair comparison,” Gorman said.
Because of the switch, competition organizers from the Carlson School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies expect only 15 to 20 competitors to submit by the April 3 deadline.
Hundreds of applicants participated in past competitions, but Douglas Johnson, co-director of the center, said the number will grow as the University community becomes familiar with the event.
A panel of institutional and private investors and entrepreneurs, familiar with early-stage companies, will judge the entries on thoroughness, probability of a plan’s success and experience of the management.
“The primary goal of the program is to promote the commercialization of good business ideas within the University,” Johnson said.
Winners of the first prize and the $15,000 second prize will be announced at a recognition event April 28.
Past winners have turned their prize money — and recognition their idea garnered from investors — into viable businesses.
Last year’s winner, Jim Stice, leads Twin Star Medical, a start-up company that produces catheters to help reduce brain swelling.
“I think it wasn’t the money quite as much,” Stice said. “The thing we were more interested in was the recognition and the publicity that came with it.”
Sponsors of the competition include Riverside Bank, St. Paul Venture Capital, Dorsey and Whitney, KPMG and Andcor Companies.

Justin Costley covers business and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4020 x3237.