Focused on helping students to compete in the business culture of innovation and ideas, the Institute for Entrepreneurship at Colorado State University’s College of Business sponsors a number of programs both on- and off-campus. Perhaps its most well-known initiative is the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge, the most lucrative pitch competition in Colorado. Sponsored by Colorado State University and the institute, along with the Colorado investment firm Blue Ocean Enterprises, the challenge offers a $250,000 grand prize to the winner of the main event.
The main event in the Challenge is open to entrepreneurs across the country, while the collegiate event invites students statewide to compete for a grand prize of $20,000 and a place in the main competition. Contestants in the main event compete for the grand prize, as well as a three-month consultation and coaching service offered to all finalists by Blue Ocean Enterprises. Dedicated to supporting the efforts of its high-level competitors, Blue Ocean provides 12 months of strategic planning and mentoring services to the grand prize winner.
Additionally, the Institute of Entrepreneurship hosts its own, smaller-scale version of this competition. Known as the Venture Adventure Challenge, the event provides CSU student teams with the opportunity to develop and pitch business ideas to organizational leaders from a variety of industries. The top five finishers earn cash prizes, while the top three receive business assessment and legal services from local firms.
The Institute for Entrepreneurship also hosts a Venture Accelerator program that offers mentoring and training to new student ventures. A two-step process, the Accelerator begins with a 16-week intensive training program for student entrepreneurs and their teams. Teams that finish the Lab with a solid proof of concept may continue in the eight-month Start-Up Spring Board program, through which they continue to receive mentoring services as they work toward establishing their new ventures. Companies that successfully complete this period and enter active operation have access to the CSU Hatchery, a fully wired workspace that they may occupy for up to one year. Student start-up businesses may also apply for capital from the CSU Student Business Advancement Fund which, like the institute’s other programs, demonstrates the university’s faith in its developing entrepreneurs.