Published: Sept. 22, 2017
Audience watches Sarabeth Berk and Ali LeBeau host the NVC Kickoff

It’s going to be a groundbreaking year for the CU Boulder New Venture Challenge (NVC), a cross-campus opportunity for students, staff, faculty and the Boulder community to engage in entrepreneurship. On September 20, a record-breaking 450 people from all corners of campus and the community packed into the conference center at the Village Center for the 10th annual New Venture Challenge Kickoff Night. The program, which runs from fall through spring semester, encourages participants to present innovative ideas, form teams and compete for money to fund ventures.

The night was filled with food, fun, a photo booth, talks from inspirational speakers, and announcements on upcoming events. Sarabeth Berk, Director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative at CU Boulder, said it was the largest kickoff night in the program’s history. The venue was so packed that there was only standing room by the time the event started at 6 pm.

Ali LeBeau, NVC director, introduced the speakers and expressed excitement for the evening saying, “Tonight is all about inspiration.”

New this year, the kickoff night featured “lightning rounds” where speakers from all levels of experience and engagement gave 3-minute talks. They spoke of failure, pivoting, success, mentorship, and why diversity matters. For example, undergraduate student and past NVC participant Garmai Matthew spoke about how reflecting upon her own heritage sparked her entrepreneurial journey and how that inspired her to design a renewable clothing line in Liberia.

One attendee, computer science major Chris Struckman, came to kickoff night to find inspiration for his own NVC proposal. His team recently found out their idea was already in the works at another company, so they’re pivoting their proposal and taking a new approach. “I’m just trying to get an idea of what to expect,” Struckman said.

Mostly important, marking its 10th anniversary, the CU Boulder NVC will award a prize of $100,000 for the most fundable venture at the championship round in April 2018.

Another exciting announcement made at the event by Sarabeth Berk were the blueprints for the brand new coworking space being built in the Village Center. This space is on track to open in January of 2018 and is meant to give community members all over CU a place to find inspiration for all types of projects and coursework. The space offers plenty of sunlight and a grand view of the flatirons.