Regions Southwest Virginia

Global student business competition is growing

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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This year’s event is expected to attract 14 teams.
Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

When the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Business Concept Challenge was first held in 2010, the competition attracted seven teams from universities around the world. Now in its fifth year, 14 teams from as far away as Australia, North Africa and South America will compete in August for a $25,000 grand prize and a chance to gain exposure for their business ideas.

The competition is part of VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week, which offers students, faculty and businesspeople from around the world a chance to exchange ideas and collaborate. Students are housed with local families and spend time with successful local technology companies. The program also gives the Roanoke/Blacksburg area international exposure.

VT KnowledgeWorks, which is housed at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg, encourages entrepreneurship by helping market-worthy ventures organize, form a strategy and obtain outside investments.

“It’s quite clear to any reasonable observer that markets for technological advances are global markets,” says Jim Flowers, executive director of VT KnowledgeWorks. “We all will be doing business all over the world for years to come and people tend to do business with people they know and trust. We are building bonds with bright, influential people from population centers from all over the world.”

He believes those bonds will help the area become a “meaningful player in the global economy.” He hopes that students will go back to their countries “impressed, with a positive image of the region.”

One of the teams competing in the global challenge will be Vestigo, the winner of this year’s VT KnowledgeWorks Entrepreneurship Challenge, a local contest held in April. Vestigo won $10,000 in scholarships and start-up services for a proposed system that includes an app helping people find parking places.

Some of the winning teams from past global competitions have opened businesses. Team Auticiel, the 2013 winner, pursued its business idea: “Applications-Autisme.com.”

The team partnered with the Orange Foundation and UNAPEI, a federation of associations in France representing people with intellectual disabilities, to launch the first interactive site that enables caregivers and the parents of those who suffer from autism to find specially designed applications.

“We feel like we are executing our plan effectively,” Flowers says of the organization’s original goal. “We do know that countries want to play each year and that we have gained traction. We are recognized.”


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