Idea Pitch offers students a place to share new, personal ideas

Austin Metz

Idea Pitch is returning to Grand Valley State University for the eighth year and will feature anywhere from 20 and 80 students pitching their ideas to a panel of judges.

“Idea Pitch is a catalyst to get students to think about their ideas,” said Miles Smith, President of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization. “It helps students to think and communicate their idea or concept well enough to have someone be willing to give them a large sum of money.”

Adam Ingraham is a graduate assistant for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and to him, this can be a good place to start for students.

“It’s a first step for students,” Ingraham said. “A lot of times they have an idea that they have thought about for days, weeks, and maybe years. This is a starting-off point … we hope they use this opportunity.”

Students participating in the event will have 90 seconds to pitch an idea they have formulated before a panel of five judges who will then decide who wins first, second, and third place prizes.

“The event is open to the public and anyone from the general public to other investors and business leaders will be in attendance,” Smith said. “We really want a wide variety of topics covered though. We want ideas from artists, scientists, people in business, and the computer sciences.”

Smith said that following each person’s pitch, there will be one minute of questioning from the judges, but that is dependent upon how many students are presenting.

The judges for the competition will include two individuals from the business start-up company Start Garden, one venture capitalist from Wind Quest, and two others who specialize in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Following the last presentation, judges will collaborate and decide the winners for the evening.

For the ideas that finish in the top three, there is a monetary prize of $1,000 for first place, $750 for second place, and $500 for third place.

J. Kevin McCurren is the Executive Director of the Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at GVSU and has seen the benefits a program like Idea Pitch can have on students.

“I have watched how it gets people comfortable with forming an idea,” McCurren said. “Companies like Walmart and Google all started with an idea and it’s about sharing that idea in a short period of time.

“We aren’t expecting these ideas to be the next Google or Walmart but this starts these students off in the process and it shows the value in being able to address a person,” McCurren said.

The event, which is sponsored by the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, will take place on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Grand River Room in the Kirkoff Building with registration for the event open until Oct. 10.

Ingraham said that on top of getting exposure from local entrepreneurs, Idea Pitch helps students network with fellow students.

“We are always trying to push networking and we always try to get students to connect,” Ingraham said. “It could lead to a job or a partnership down the line.”

For the top two finishers, the path is not over as Smith said they will move on to the regional competition on Nov. 7 at Aquinas College. There, they will compete against the top winners from Aquinas College, Davenport University, Cornerstone College, Grand Rapids Community College, Calvin College and Hope College with the winner taking home $1,500.

Although students may experience nerves leading up to their pitch, McCurren encouraged students to still try.

“Just do it, it’s 90 seconds,” McCurren said. “Everyone has an idea. I have been involved in a half dozen start-up companies that have had to figure out how to tell someone about it in a very concise amount of time.”

Ingraham echoed McCurren’s thoughts.

“There is no loss as an individual,” Ingraham said. “There are no regrets, no cost and it’s only 90 seconds so it’s not a huge commitment and if you do get a positive response, there are only positives you can get out of it.”

Smith said that for those dealing with nerves leading up to the competition, there will be a practice session on Oct. 15 where students can pitch ideas in front of advisors at the university.

Although the pitch is focused around an idea, McCurren compared the experience to an interview.

“When you are interviewing, you are selling yourself in a very short amount of time, it’s a pitch,” McCurren said. “It’s a skill set that takes practice and we don’t teach it in the classroom.”

For more information about Idea Pitch or to register, visit

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