Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative prepares for StartUp Bowl

The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, a program within ASU's Entrepreneurship & Innovation Group that gives students the chance to develop successful businesses over a 10-month span, is now accepting applications for its second Startup Bowl.

The initiative looks to help students gain entrepreneurial and business skills, according to its official site.The Startup Bowl is a competition that serves to entice ASU schools into friendly competition. The highest percentage of Edson proposals per capita wins.

Gordon McConnell, assistant vice president of research and leader of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Group,said students see the program as an opportunity for them to follow their passion, instead of working for someone else.

“Stay in college and get moving with your own startup idea,” he said.

McConnell said mentoring and training, funding and office space are all resources provided for students to help students succeed.

The Edson program uses approximately 120 judges and every proposal is overlooked by three judges, he said.

McConnell said the judges prefer teams, which average about three people per group, because of the work and dedication it takes to start a business.

“Everyone from the top 50 will get some kind of support,” he said.

McConnell said it is less about the idea and more about the team applying it. He was deputy CEO of the Dublin City University Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship in Ireland.

“From where I’m from, there’s a high rate of unemployment,” he said.

McConnell said he and his peers did not have the same opportunity offered in Ireland and encouraged students to participate from all divisions of study.

The Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering had the most participants in the Edson program last year, making the school the first Startup Bowl winner.

McConnell said he hopes to increase the number of female and veteran students in the Edson program and that advertising for the initiative this year targets these groups.

“We want to make sure there is plenty of entrepreneurship opportunity,” he said.

Alumnus Christopher Wilson won the initiative with his team in 2012-13.

Wilson is a founder of LateLiving, a video-based directory that helps seniors find homes.

He realized there was a problem when his grandmother needed to find a place to live, he said. Wilson said the websites were inconvenient and asked for contact information before showing hardly any information.

“You can’t see more than a few pictures,” he said.

Wilson said LateLiving won the ASU Innovation Challenge and took second place in ASU’s Demo Day, in addition to being an Edson winner.

Wilson said the Edson program gave him resources and training to help him succeed.

“I know how to run a company and manage employees and really make something out of nothing,” he said.

Alumnus Cynthia Valenzuela, who founded KVZ Sports along with her partner and husband Matt Boyd, said creating their business was hard, but rewarding.

“It’s hard work to get in this program,” she said. “It takes some serious dedication.”

KVZ Sports was a winning business venture from the Edson program that mainly manufactures winter sport wear.

Valenzuela said a lot of items are made outside of the U.S., which is how the idea for a domestic winter sportswear company developed.

Valenzuela said what began as an idea has turned into a real passion.

“There’s something amazing about being able to create something,” she said.

Reach the reporter at kjonessc@asu.edu or @_KennedyScott

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