New Duke Startup Challenge Prize Targets Biomedical Engineering Students

Teams competing in the next Duke Startup Challenge will have something new to shoot for—a $10,000 prize for the best team with an undergraduate or graduate student from the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) as part of its leadership.

Founded in 1999, the competition is designed to help Duke's entrepreneurial community flourish with a year-long entrepreneurship competition followed by an accelerator program.

The first round allows teams to submit ideas to a broad array of alumni and other judges for feedback. During Round Two, between 45 and 60 teams develop their ideas into comprehensive pitch decks or business plans. The second round teams also create a company video and launch an Indiegogo campaign with the hopes of raising $5,000 via crowdfunding.

Roughly 10 teams from the second round with the highest scores and most successful crowdfunding campaigns progress to the summer accelerator program, where they have the chance to work on their startups for 10 weeks. Finally, these teams compete in the live Grand Finale for the $50,000 grand prize.

Last year, about 80 teams of students and alumni competed for more than 20 prizes ranging from $500 to $50,000. All told, more than 1,000 alumni judges doled out nearly $150,000 throughout the four rounds of competition.

Of those teams, about 20 percent were led by somebody from BME.  But Ashutosh Chilkoti, chair of BME, thinks they can do better.

“Duke BME is a highly entrepreneurial department with many successful companies started by faculty, students and alumni,” said Chilkoti, who came up with the idea for the new $10,000 prize (and has launched three companies himself). “Sponsorship of this prize recognizes the important role entrepreneurship plays in defining the culture of the department and encourages budding entrepreneurs in our student cohort.”

For a team to be eligible for the new prize, it must have have at least one BME undergraduate or graduate student member involved in its leadership and development from inception through a potential appearance in the Grand Finale. And while a team doesn’t need to be in the finals to win the BME prize, the Grand Prize winner will still be eligible for this new award.

Entries for this year’s competition are due on October 30, and BME students make great additions to any team. The startup idea does not need to be healthcare-related to qualify for consideration.

“We are very excited to see an even greater commitment to entrepreneurship in biomedical engineering and look forward to a closer collaboration between BME and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Fuqua,” said Jon Fjeld, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.  “Working together, we can provide excellent learning opportunities for our students and increase the chances that BME research can have an impact on society.”