The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club has tripled the prize money awarded to winners of this year’s TigerLaunch, the club’s annual pitch competition, to $30,000 after a donation from board of advisors member Howard Cox ’64. The larger prize, which will apply only to the competition’s entrepreneurship track, represents a $20,000 increase across all awards and a $15,000 increase for the first-place winner.
The donation to TigerLaunch will be sustained for future competitions, Cox said. He added that he was inspired by his desire to encourage entrepreneurship at Princeton.
“Most entrepreneurs start after graduation, but I’d like to see them started at a younger age, given recent technological advances,” Cox explained. “I think Princeton is an excellent environment for nurturing future entrepreneurs.”
Cox has been the principal funder of the TigerLaunch prizes and expenses since the competition began in 1999, but 2013 is the first time he has donated such a large amount of money to fund the entrepreneurship track prize, according to Ed Zschau ’61, another member of the club’s board of advisors.
“They [the Entrepreneurship Club] came to me and asked, ‘Do you think Howard would be interested in increasing the prize?’ and I contacted him, and he said, ‘Yes, definitely,’ ” Zschau said.
The Princeton Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, a separate organization that works closely with E-Club, is also raising funds to increase the size of the social entrepreneurship track’s prize, with the hope of making it equal to the entrepreneurship track’s prize, E-Club co-president Momchil Tomov ’14 said.
PSEI has raised about $25,000 in prizes from alumni donations, according to E-Club co-president Taylor Francis ’14.
The 2013 TigerLaunch competition received over 100 entries for both the entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship tracks, an increase of about 40 from the previous year, he said.
According to Tomov, the competition’s prize money was initially meant to serve as a reward for good business ideas rather than as seed money to support their development. Other university entrepreneurship competitions, like MIT’s $100K Entrepreneurship Competition and Stanford’s BASES 150k Challenge, have larger prizes to allow winners to bring their ideas to fruition.
Tomov said that, by offering a larger prize, E-Club hopes that the winners will spend their prize money developing their ideas into actual businesses, although this does not usually happen.
“I think the entries are very high-quality,” TigerLaunch director David Dworsky ’15 said of this year’s entries. “I am extremely impressed with the ideas that we’ve received … we have technology companies, education companies, e-commerce companies, entertainment, and we’re really excited about the diversity of startups we have in this competition.”
The larger prize will also bring greater publicity to TigerLaunch and E-Club, Tomov said.
“I really hope this year’s TigerLaunch … will raise more awareness about entrepreneurship in general as a viable career path,” Tomov said. “One of the other great things about having more prize money is that we can actually get some more coverage, some more reach to the student body,” he added.
After TigerLaunch competitors submit their applications, the judges will select the top 10 applications from the entrepreneurship track and the top 10 from the social entrepreneurship track to move on to the semifinals, Tomov said. Semifinalists will be paired with a mentor to help them prepare for the final round on April 5 in Friend Center 101, which will require them to submit a product demo or a business plan.
The E-Club works closely with TigerLabs, an organization that aims to provide support for emerging startup companies like the ones entered in the TigerLaunch competition, to provide mentors for TigerLaunch competitors.
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