14th Annual Startup Challenge Monterey Bay Competition Results & Winners!

This past Friday, the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED) and the College of Business at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) hosted the 14th Annual Startup Challenge Monterey Bay in person. Twenty-seven teams of entrepreneurs competed for over $32,000 in cash prizes, business services, and mentorship. 

The teams presented their business ideas to business experts who served as judges in the Final Round of the competition. Forty-five teams of entrepreneurs entered the Challenge and twenty-seven teams remained to compete on Friday, April 28, 2023. 

Startup Challenge Participants

The finalists, all from the Monterey Bay region, competed in a “shark tank” style final round hoping to join the likes of past winners (which include Cruz Foam, Carmel Honey Company, HeavyConnect, Apostrophe, Little Feet Packaging, and Monterey Bay Food Tours) who have gone on to great success in their business ventures.

The Challenge offers four divisions – Venture, Main Street, Student, and Social Venture.  The Venture division is for businesses that intend to scale into large enterprises, and that can provide venture capital-level returns to investors; the Main Street division is for small businesses, and the Student division is for students in high school through graduate school. The Social Venture division is for individuals seeking to launch non-profits or for-profit businesses with a social mission.

Attendees received $30,000 in Otter dollars, which they were encouraged to “invest” in the Startup Challenge finalist companies at the event’s Venture Showcase. The Startup Challenge entrepreneur team with the most Otter dollars received the Crowd Favorite award. This year, there was a tie for Crowd Favorite:

  • The Bus Stop Beer Garden – A craft beer garden that sells draft beer and food with an “old bus” theme.
  • Stellaria Creative Company – Specializes in unique methods of engagement marketing and storytelling that incorporates original cirque musical theatre and/or site-specific productions.

This year’s winners by division:

Venture Division:

  • Grand Prize: Friendly Robots – Specializes in commercial grade robotics for facility maintenance
  • Runners-Up (2):
    • RedRider – A sustainable housing solutions company that specializes in producing affordable, mass-produced housing using modular timber that is eco-friendly.
    • Sweet Prairie Haskap – A first to market, high potency, nutrient-dense concentrated juice made from the haskap berry.

Main Street Division:

  • Grand Prize: Chezza Jewelry – Sells handmade, minimalist jewelry to spotlight your radiance.
  • Runners-Up (2):
    • Locally Lit – Local candlemaking experience and classes
    • PassoDoble – A non-tech interactive educational tool to promote verbal, fine motor, and memory skills for children ages 6 months – 4 years old.

Social Venture Division:

  • Grand Prize: Art Abilities – A non-profit organization dedicated to empowering intellectually disadvantaged people by helping them in their creative expression and community integration through art.
  • Runners-Up (2):
    • Get Up and Move – Provides a website and apps that help people get up and move more frequently and mindfully throughout the day.
    • Play Brightly Youth Charitable Foundation – A charitable foundation serving girls (3rd-8th grade) with health, nutrition, strength and conditioning education and basketball player development.

Student Division:

  • Grand Prize: Bubbly Hill Wines  – A wine company that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) technology to produce and sell high-quality wines.

The Startup Challenge new venture competition is held each year by the CSU, Monterey Bay Institute for Innovation and Economic Development. The Challenge provides coaching, feedback, and workshops to the participants and employs over 50 business experts who volunteer as coaches and judges each year. Major supporters and sponsors of the Challenge were Linqto, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, BlueTech Valley, and Brooksher Properties.

The Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED) is a community outreach program of the College of Business at CSUMB. Supported through community contributions, sponsorships, and grants, the iiED staff, faculty, students, and business volunteers have worked with over 4,800 aspiring entrepreneurs, supported over 900 startup companies which have created over 200 jobs and have raised over $57.5 million in capital.

If you would like to support the activities of the iiED, please contact Dan Ripke at dripke@csumb.edu to learn more.

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