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Events

Five questions about the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge

April 11, 2014

Everything you ever wanted to know about one of the nation's biggest events for entrepreneurs, taking place in Fort Collins at the end of May - and how you can be a part of it, too.

1. What is the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge?

The Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge is one of the largest annual business pitch competitions in the nation, as measured by its grand prize of $250,000.

Presented by the Colorado State University College of Business and Blue Ocean Enterprises, the competition is a celebration of innovation, leadership development, and job creation. The Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge is a competition among collegiate entrepreneurs throughout Colorado, startups, and existing companies seeking funding and business mentoring.  

A total of 32 companies in Collegiate and Enterprise Tracks are competing for $310,000 in cash and prizes, including a $250,000 grand prize, and 12 months of business mentorship with executives from Blue Ocean Enterprises.

The competition is focused on identifying great ideas and emerging business leaders at both the college and early-stage startup level.  The 16 companies from four colleges across Colorado compete for $20,000 in the Collegiate Track on May 2, 2014; the winner of the Collegiate Track will be invited to compete with 16 companies from around the nation on the Enterprise Track on May 23 and 24 at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins.

2. Who is sponsoring the prizes?

Blue Ocean Enterprises, headquartered in Fort Collins, is the main sponsor of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge, in partnership with the Institute of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Colorado State University. Blue Ocean was established in 2011 by OtterBox Founder and Chairman Curt Richardson and his wife, Nancy Richardson, to provide business mentoring, accounting, legal, information technology, real estate, and human relations services to its affiliated companies.

Kurt Hoeven, CEO of Blue Ocean Holdings LLC, and Charisse Bowen, director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship in the CSU College of Business, are co-directors of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge.HP will also award $50,000 in computer hardware to the winners of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge. Thirty more corporations, organizations and strategic partners are helping to sponsor the Challenge, including Emyth; FirstBank; City of Fort Collins; OtterBox; Hogan Lovells; EKS&H; NerdyMind Marketing; ColoradoBiz Magazine; Odell Brewing Co.; the Fort Collins Coloradoan; Green Ride; SpokesBuzz; WildRock Public Relations and Marketing; E&Y; InnovatioNews; Flood and Peterson Insurance, and more. See the full list here.

The wide range of businesses partnering on the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Colorado, and the central place in that ecosystem occupied by Colorado State University.

3. Who are the competitors and how were they chosen?

The 32 competitors in the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge are evenly divided between student-run companies and established startups. Of the 16 Collegiate Track companies, 10 are from Colorado State University. In total, four universities in Colorado are represented in the competition.

The 16 companies competing in the Enterprise Track are based in eight different states across the nation. A total of 22 distinct industries are represented, from manufacturing to software, health care to financial management. A full list of the 32 competitors is available here.

Applications for this inaugural competition were accepted from October through December 2013. A seven-member review board considered 133 applications to select the final 32 competitors.

And even if they don’t grab the grand prize on Memorial Day weekend, all the participants are taking something valuable from the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge.The competitors have participated in three weekend-long workshops in Fort Collins to help them prepare their pitches for the final competition – and to move their businesses forward into the future.

Twenty-six business leaders and successful entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley to Wall Street will be judging semi-finals and final pitch competitions for each track.

4. What is the Venture Fest?

The highly competitive business pitch competition, the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge, is just part of a two-day festival of all things entrepreneurial, May 23-24, 2014. The simultaneous Venture Fest will be a celebration of innovation, leadership development, and job creation, all located in the Fort Collins Lincoln Center. All Venture Fest events are free to attend but registration is required.

After the opening ceremonies on Friday evening, the Enterprise Track competitors begin pitching in earnest at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. While the semi-finals take place in the main performance hall, the rest of the venue will be hosting:

  • a Young Entrepreneurs Showcase with some of the best ideas from K-12 students from across Colorado;
  • an Emyth Branding Workshop open to the public;
  • a Partner Showcase spotlighting a number of different organizations that make up the multi-faceted nature of Northern Colorado, including AIR -- Art incubator of the Rockies -- Rocky Mountain Innosphere, Center for Advancement of Sustainable Enterprise, and SpokesBuzz, and
  • an Expo Hall featuring representatives from 65 companies and organizations including competitors, sponsors and partners.

The Blue Ocean Enterprise Challenge finals begin at 6 p.m. on May 24 in the main performance hall; the awards ceremony will be followed by the “BOB” – Blue Ocean Bash – a party with live music to celebrate the winners and to wrap up both the Challenge and the Venture Fest.

5. How can I attend or get involved in the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge or the Venture Fest?

Admission to the Venture Fest activities and the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge pitch semi-finals and finals is free, but all attendees must register and receive a festival badge for admittance to the various events. Go to www.blueoceanchallenge.com and click on the Get Tickets button to register and to find a complete schedule and location of events.

Organizers of this massive celebration are also in need of volunteers to help make the event a roaring success. More information on volunteering or other ways to become part of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge and Venture Fest are also on.

You can also find the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge on Facebook, and follow  on Twitter @csublueocean.


Contact: Charisse Bowen
E-mail: charisse.bowen@colostate.edu