The University of New Mexico Anderson’s Innovation Academy hosted the fall 2023 Rainforest Pitch Competition Nov. 8 at Bow and Arrow Brewing Co. in partnership with UNM Rainforest Innovations. The top 10 student finalists competed in pitching business ideas to a live audience and three judges for a chance to win seed money.
Each student had 90 seconds to pitch their entry-level business idea for three top prizes. Securing first place for the Audience Choice award of $1,000 was Ankit Jaiswal for Campus Park. The Judge’s Choice award winners were two students from Anderson’s Japanese partnership school, Yamanashi Gakuin University. They were Yasutada Ichikawa for FAM Passport and Masaki Murakami for Nailykey. Both students received $950 in prize money.
The remaining seven finalists, which included Tina Memarian with DentaFresh, Andrew Norton with Trust Athletics, Keely Santillan with The Passion Project, Tiwalola Anawao with @Tiwalands, Olumide Oladoyin and Raju Vadthya with ROMINIUM TECH, Beliza Sanchez with PocDoc, and Aleksandra Wolczak with Wolczix, each secured a prize of $300.
A total of 48 students submitted pitch videos for review by two preliminary judges. Those judges then choose the top 10 students who advanced to the final round at Bow and Arrow.
Rebecca Rodriguez, the competition manager, shared that “our goal is for students to use the prize money as seed funding for their business. This funding can help them purchase a domain for their website or further research for developing a prototype and many other initial entrepreneurial steps. Many students have incredible ideas but need help taking the first step.”
By participating in this competition, students begin to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset that allows them to think creatively about addressing everyday challenges.
Tiffini Porter-Aragon, a competition coordinator, said, "The competition gives students the chance to step out of their comfort zones and realize their ability to think and act like entrepreneurs in a fun, low-stress environment. Porter-Aragon continued, "It also creates potential connections between students and the entrepreneurial community and in doing so gives students a reason to stay local after graduation, which directly impacts New Mexico’s economic growth.”
The competition is open to university students across New Mexico. Past participants have been from NMSU, NM Tech and UNM’s branch campuses. This year, it included international partnership schools as well.
The spring 2024 pitch competition dates are set. The deadline to submit your video pitch submission is Tuesday, March 26, and the live final round will be Wednesday, April 10, at Bow and Arrow Brewing Co.
For more information or to register for the spring 2024 competition, visit http://innovations.unm.edu/epc/.