Teams at Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) are preparing business plans to participate in the second annual Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, launched this winter. Introduced last year to bring Innovation Close to Home, the challenge creates relevant project experiences for students and encourages Oregon Tech students and recent alumni to start businesses in Klamath Falls to ignite rural economic development in this area.
Winners of last year’s challenge, Gro-volution
, were awarded $5,000 for first place and have since then made the company a reality with their sustainable agriculture production system. Catalyze has grown in the past year with additional sponsors pledging to support the contest. The prize money now starts at $2,000 for third place, $5,000 for second place, and $7,000 for first place.
The growth in donations for the competition allows winners to extend their entrepreneurial efforts and provide for a greater launching pad of their concepts.
The challenge is made possible through the generous donations of the following sponsors:
Senator Doug Whitsett and Representative Gail Whitsett of the Oregon State Legislature
City of Klamath Falls
Wendt Family Foundation
Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA)
Black Canyon Woodworks
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Dean of Oregon Tech's College of Engineering, Technology, and Management (ETM)
Dean of Oregon Tech's College of Health, Arts, and Sciences (HAS)
As representatives of Klamath County, Senator and Representative Whitsett are committed to encouraging the culture of entrepreneurship in Klamath Falls. “We are excited to team up with Oregon Tech for this opportunity and hope it will help kindle rural economic development and provide hands-on experience to participants," shared Senator Doug Whitsett.
The challenge officially kicked off last month with a welcome reception at Gaucho Collective, an industrious co-working space in downtown Klamath, co-founded by an Oregon Tech alumnus, which has offered up the added prize bonus of business membership to their working space. Klamath Inspire Development — Energize Acceleration (Klamath IDEA), the Klamath Basin’s business incubator, will also provide consultations to the winners to help ensure success after the competition.
The first challenge for teams comes this week on Thursday, March 10th at the annual Shark Tech Venture Pitch Competition, an event where the panel of judges listen to business pitches and help prepare teams for the real competition. Coordinator of the Shark Tech event, Oregon Tech Management assistant professor Mark Ahalt is also a faculty advisor for the participants and teaches entrepreneurship and small business planning and strategies for the university. “As a business instructor for the last seven years at Oregon Tech, I really feel there is momentum growing to connect our students beyond their majors and beyond our campus….not just for great salaries but as innovators and movers,” said professor Ahalt. “Catalyze is about growing the Basin and there is a role for our students in that mission.”
Innovation concepts or prototypes developed by Oregon Tech seniors and recent graduates from 2014 and 2015 for Catalyze can be wide-ranging, must meet a user/customer need, and have a substantial potential market for the future. Participants are encouraged to be creative but realistic and create a concept for a new idea, product, or service that could become a thriving business and add value and meaning in everyday lives, encouraging solutions for job growth in the Klamath Falls area.
Teams have been meeting with faculty advisors and Klamath IDEA representatives to prepare submissions of preliminary concept materials. Appraisal will be based on a comprehensive evaluation of the innovativeness and thoroughness of the business/marketing plan, and the practicality of the final product or service. A judging panel will determine the winners in Spring term.
Anyone interested in helping with sponsorship, mentoring, sharing of expertise through a session with students, or in an advisory capacity, please contact Lita Colligan, Associate Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Oregon Tech, at Lita.Colligan@oit.edu