15th 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 15th Annual Startup Challenge Monterey Bay in person. Twenty Finalists competed for the grand prize in their division. 

The teams presented their business ideas to business experts who served as judges in the Final Round of the competition. Fifty-two startup businesses entered the Challenge and twenty teams were selected as Finalists to compete on Friday, April 26, 2024. 

15th Year of Startup Challenge

The Challenge reached a milestone this year: 15 years of startup businesses receiving training, encouragement, and mentoring as they compete for the prizes. Started in 2010 by the Marina Technology Cluster under the direction of Susan Barch, the Challenge moved to CSU Monterey Bay in 2013 and has been hosted by the University since then. 

Over 1,000 companies have entered the competition, and Challenge participants have gone on to raise over $150 million in follow-on funding. Over 600 jobs have been created by Challenge companies. The Challenge has supported scalable companies like Yoderm (now Hims & Hers), Cruzfoam, and Little Feet Packaging; small businesses like Nece’s Gluten Free Baked Goods, Katie’s Coldpress, and Luma Yoga; and social ventures like Open Ground Studios, Art Abilities, and New Wave Programs.  

In 2021, Yoderm was acquired by Hims & Hers for $150 million. The Carmel Honey Company, started by a 7th grade middle school student, earned over $1 million in revenue by the time he graduated high school and has four location in Carmel, Monterey, and San Francisco. 

2024 Startup Challenge Participants

The finalists, all from the Monterey Bay region, competed in the final round hoping to join the likes of past winners including 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 middle 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, the Crowd Favorite was Motivando Corazones Consulting!

This year’s winners by division:

Venture Division:

  • Grand Prize: Align – Align provides an ecosystem of wellness products to promote mind-body health across the lifespan.
  • Runners-Up (2):
    • Eivie – Developing the next generation of eVTOL, selling IP, manufacturing crop sprayers, manned aircraft and selling the same.
    • Bike Garage – Bike Garage make bike customization easy with an intuitive, free, parts configuration app. It allows cyclists to seamlessly configure their ideal rides by selecting from a wide range of components and visualizing their creations in real-time.

Main Street Division:

  • Grand Prize: Rooted Wonder – Rooted Wonder play cafe will be a one-of-a-kind community space designed to foster creativity, imagination, and social interaction among children and families.
  • Runners-Up (2):
    • Fog’s End Distillery – A craft distillery. We produce small batches of award-winning spirits.

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