Startups compete for $30,000 in prizes at annual Startup Challenge on April 28

Miss Lippe's Dumpling Party, Startup Challenge 2022

Emily Lippe, right, discusses her startup Miss Lippe's Dumpling Party with an attendee at last year's Startup Challenge.

April 27, 2023

By Mark Muckenfuss

Representatives of 27 startup companies – spread across four divisions – will compete at the 14th annual Startup Challenge Monterey Bay on Friday, April 28, at CSU Monterey Bay. The 10 winners will receive cash prizes between $1,000 and $10,000.

The event follows weeks of preparation, which began with the Startup Factory event in early February.

This year’s challenge should be especially competitive, said Brad Barbeau, executive director of the Institution for Innovation and Economic Development at CSUMB’s College of Business.

“It is a really strong group of candidates,” said Barbeau, who is also a business professor. “I’m really happy with all of the companies.”

Produced by the iiED, the Startup Challenge began in 2010 as the Monterey Bay Regional Business Plan Competition. The Challenge was created by the Marina Tech Cluster, a business incubator at the MBEST Center in Marina. The Marina Tech Cluster closed in 2013, and the Challenge was moved to its current home at the iiED in the College of Business. 

Businesses compete in four divisions:

  • Venture: businesses intended to scale and provide venture investor-level returns
  • Main Street: small businesses and sole proprietorships
  • Social Venture: for-profit and not-for-profit businesses with a significant social mission
  • Student: middle school through graduate school

The event is not simply an academic exercise. Over the challenge’s 14 years, 900 prospective businesses have competed. Many have gone on to success in the marketplace. 

“This is an opportunity to see some of the new [ideas] that are coming down the pike,” Barbeau said, “to see all of these businesses that are going to be renewing our economy. You get to talk to the founders and see what they’re thinking about. And the networking is really amazing – new friends, new business partners.”

All of the previous winners of the Venture division are still active businesses and collectively have raised more than $57.3 million in funding. Two of the earlier winners, YoDerm (now Apostrophe) and HeavyConnect , were accepted into 500 Startups, a world-renowned Silicon Valley accelerator. In 2021, YoDerm was sold to Hims & Hers for $150 million. 

Main Street winners who have gone on to launch successful businesses include Nece’s Gluten-Free Baked Goods in Monterey, Luma Yoga in Santa Cruz, New Bohemian Beer in Santa Cruz, Open Ground Studios in Seaside, and the Carmel Honey Company in Carmel. 

From 9-11 a.m. at the Business and Information Technology Building, each startup will pitch its concept to the judges. The expo portion of the challenge, which is free and open to the public, will be from 1-4 p.m. in the Otter Student Union’s main ballroom, with each company manning a table with information about its idea. 

Attendees can meet and get to know the budding entrepreneurs. The winners of the challenge will be announced at 2 p.m. 

RSVP and learn more at the event web page