Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge
Launched by Zions Bank and Boise State University last year, the second annual Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge grew tremendously from its inaugural year, attracting 75 student ventures representing more than 200 students from five Idaho colleges. The 22 finalists gathered at BSU on March 31 and April 1 where $100,000 in seed money was awarded to help student-founded ideas become real companies.
By Mike Winder
Zions Bank’s Director of Entrepreneurship Programs
Photos courtesy of Zions Bank
Global Feedback and Learning
“This was a special event that saw every student walk away with global best-in-class feedback, learning and experience,” says Gordon Jones, dean of the College of Innovation and Design at BSU. Jones, who recently ran Harvard’s Innovation Lab, brought in 28 finalist judges from Boise, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Boston to enhance the event.
At an awards ceremony held at Trailhead, Boise’s hip startup hub, grand prize winnings of $13,000 each were awarded to top teams in four tracks. Multiple runner-up teams also took home thousands of dollars.
The healthy living category winner was Safeguard Equipment, founded by University of Idaho students Brandon Bledsoe and Tim Ledford. They built a patentable wristband that alerts personnel of nearby energized surfaces and conductors, potentially saving countless lives for those working in hazardous industries.
Tracking Cattle Using GPS
Winning the agriculture technology track was Hurd Tracking, founded by Boise State University’s Sheena Coles, Joshua Whitworth, Kenneth Lock-Smith and Jared Cooke. Their device is worn by cattle and allows ranchers to track location and vital signs of each animal through cellular and GPS technology.
“The Idaho Entrepreneur Challenge was an opportunity for us to push an idea further, and it was exciting being with other students who wanted to make changes in the world,” Coles says. “Thanks to our seed funding from Zions Bank, we now have an opportunity to take an MBA project and turn it into a real business.”
Belts From Bicycle Tires
Shaw Mountain Technology earned first place in the tech/consumer product/service category for its micropump technology for the pharmaceutical market. This will be a boon in autonomous insulin delivery for humans, a multibillion-dollar market. The Boise State University team included Aaron Smith, Joe Runyan and Andrew Armstrong.
First place honors were presented to Revival Outlet in the social/cultural/environmental impact category. The business collects used bicycle tires from bike shops and turns them into fashionable belts. Revival Outlet is led by BYU-Idaho students Emerson Hammer and Mitchell Taylor.
“This was a great opportunity to network and learn about resources in Idaho to help entrepreneurs,” Hammer says. “Zions Bank made it happen, and now we have resources to pursue our mission to help the planet by reusing old bicycle tires in a fun, hip and profitable way.”
In addition to the seed money to help launch these student-founded companies, Zions Bank offered each of the finalists banking and networking support through its Elite Entrepreneur program. Bankers will work closely with them to support and scale their startups. Zions Bank is committed to enhancing Idaho’s entrepreneurial ecosystem because small businesses create jobs, strengthen communities and make enormous contributions to the local economy.