Friday, July 7, 2017

Institute for the Global Entrepreneur Hosted First Annual Innovation Award

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Audrey Olsen
On June 14, the Center on Global Transformation (CGT) in partnership with the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur (IGE) hosted the UC San Diego Application Student Innovation Contest for undergraduate students at the Jacobs School of Engineering. Contest submissions were judged by industry experts, including Qualcomm executives and serial tech entrepreneurs. The winning product, by Audrey Olson, was called MatchRest.  It is a mutual accountability software application that matches people with comparable habits and sleep goals and rewarded them for staying and keeping one another on track. For example, a person with the sleep goals of falling asleep before midnight and turning off her computer an hour beforehand would check in with her partner nightly before doing each, and vice versa.  Each user would also have a virtual bedroom showcasing the status of his or her virtual avatar, which could be upgraded or customized more thoroughly as more goals were reached. Audrey won $5,000 in prize money. Second and third place students received $2,000 and $1,000 respectively.
Jesse Ren
Audrey’s partner in developing the product is Jesse Ren, acomputer science student and a 2016 NSF I-Corps participant. The Institute of Global Entrepreneur’s I-Corps program teaches lean start-up principles that are focused on product/market fit and customer discovery. Next up for the team, they plan on doing initial customer interviews in the fall to help in the development of their minimum viable product (MVP). They are currently working on personal projects (one such project is for UC San Diego's Project-in-a-Box initiative) while studying, applying, and interviewing for full-time post-graduate positions in the software industry.
We reached out to Elizabeth Lyons, Professor at the School of Global Policy, to talk about the contest.
IGE - What is the innovation contest and why hold it now?
EL - The UC San Diego Student Innovation Contest is a contest for undergraduates at the Jacobs School of Engineering (JSoE), who are interested in working on a real-world problem that has not yet been solved; second, expanding their knowledge and capabilities through a hands-on project; and third, the opportunity to win some money. We held the contest for the first time this year because of the important role innovation plays in economic growth and our interest in understanding whether it’s possible to encourage more innovation through contests like this. We also wanted to give JSoE students the opportunity to grow as innovators, and to build more links between the School of Global Policy and Strategy, JSoE, and the Institute for the Global Entrepreneur (IGE).

IGE -  What was it that made the winning team stand out?

EL - The winner of the contest did an outstanding job of building a commercially viable and technologically functional product. All the judges agreed that her application was user-friendly and that her revenue model was compelling. She stood out in how well she took into consideration all aspects of the innovative process. We received a number of submissions that were technologically very compelling or that had the potential to be commercially successful, but only a few that scored well in both areas.

IGE - When is the next challenge and how do teams sign up?

EL - We are currently working on how to proceed with the contest going forward. Our options for the next challenge will depend on the lessons we’re now compiling from the first contest. We’ve received very helpful feedback from many of our contest participants, and we’re also trying to analyze what led some participants to exert more effort than others in the hopes that we can improve on our contest design going forward. We will be sure to announce any upcoming challenges as soon as we’ve finalized the details!

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