You might be able to defend your mobile app ideas in front of venture capital firms and industry developers in a cross between “Shark Tank” and “The Voice,” and build a business out of it.
The Center for Technology Transfer’s UPstart program is running its inaugural AppITUP Challenge with venture capital partners for idea evaluation and industry leading companies for prototype development. Applications, which are submitted through AppITUP’s website, close Oct. 20.
“We are hoping to get all sorts of submissions — diversity is my key,” said Karina Sotnik, a senior consultant at UPstart and the program director of AppITUP. “I want to get a poetry app, or apps for emergency room doctors. Anything.”
The submissions, which opened Sept. 23, will be handed over to venture capital partners like Mentortech and Robinhood for evaluation. The top 10 ideas selected will be invited to an open-to-public final round selection on Nov. 22. Venture capital firms, industry development partners and Wharton MBAs who are interested in running the businesses will attend.
“The event will be a crossover of ‘Shark Tank’ and ‘The Voice,‘” said Sotnik. “The VCs will be there to ask more questions to clarify things. And our five development partners will listen to [the conversation] and then they will decide which one out of the 10 finalists they want to develop. If more than one company wants to develop the same idea, then it’s the idea maker’s turn to decide which developer they want.”
AppITUP will then help the five selected apps develop into businesses in three different ways. Faculty particpants will go through the normal UPstart program to set up a company; students will receive mentorship and industrial network with the help of UPAdvisors; or, if the person is not interested in business, the program will run this business for him or her.
“We want you to get involved as long and as far as you want,” said Sotnik. “If you have an app idea and have no time to do anything with it, you just assign the right to the University of Pennsylvania and we’ll find someone to set up the company and you’ll collect your 30 percent royalty.”
Coming from a Silicon Valley background, Sotnik said she wanted to bring together industry resources that know the market and to “connect all the dots together through the program.”
“UPstart only focuses on faculty, and usually 75 percent of UPstart companies are in life sciences — it’s a very specific field,” she said. “We wanted to get out of the box. We wanted to open it up to staff [and students].”
On the submission form, participants can submit their ideas in three categories: commercial — general apps like Angry Birds or Uber that anyone might use, specialized, with specific target groups like nurses and NobleMobile — apps with a social impact.
“I’m sure everyone I talked to has a mobile app idea,” Sotnik said. “I used to live in Los Angeles, and in Los Angeles, every bus driver has an idea for a movie script. Here, no matter who I talk to — the staff, the students, the faculty — everyone says, ‘You know, I have an app idea!’ And that’s how this started.”
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