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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA students commercialize their innovations through the Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Challenge

    A promotional poster for the Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Challenge. The challenge gives students the chance to commercialize their innovations with prizes and resources.

    Applications were submitted Feb. 27 for the Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Challenge, sponsored by Perkins Coie Law Firm, the Arizona Center for Innovation, Startup Tucson and InnovateUA.
    This is the second year of the challenge, which gives students the chance to commercialize their innovations with monetary prizes and non-monetary resources. Students submit applications for their business ideas in February. Selected finalists have the chance to both bring their ideas to life through the InnovateUA Accelerator Program and present their ideas at the Innovative Minds Challenge Demo Day.
    Zy Mazza, a religious studies sophomore, is the director of accelerator and education for InnovateUA. He said the Minds Challenge began because InnovateUA’s executive director, Justin Williams, wanted to create an incubator, or accelerator, for innovators. InnovateUA then partnered with Perkins Coie, who does these kinds of challenges all over the country.
    Perkins Coie also sponsors Innovative Minds Challenges at Arizona State University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Washington.
    “Basically, there are three ways to be eligible for the challenge,” Mazza said. “Through the InnovateUA Accelerator Program, through the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program and the third one is enrollment in a list of qualifying courses.”
    Mazza was a competitor in last year’s challenge. According to him, InnovateUA’s programs work as a pipeline.
    “At the beginning of this year, we had Pitchfest, which is the first event designed to get people thinking about business ideas,” Mazza said. “Following this is Startup Weekend, to get people to start thinking about their ideas seriously and following that is the accelerator. The goal of the pipeline is to get progressions, to get students ready to take their idea to the next level, to make them commercially viable and have a business you can rely on that will pay the bills.”
    All of the possible prizes for winning the Innovative Minds Challenge total $25,000. Perkins Coie Law Firm, AzCI and Startup Tucson each have a different selection committee and select winners separately.
    Mazza said the different sponsors have prizes that can be won in cash or in fellowships, depending on the prize pool. Mazza’s own business, Agent Sage, was a finalist in last year’s program. His business works to provide home buyers and sellers with an efficient and likeable real estate agent, while also giving agents valuable information that allows them to make home purchases more efficient.
    Mazza, InnovateUA and the Perkins Coie Innovative Minds Challenge are working to ensure that student ideas are fostered and encouraged to usher in a new age of entrepreneurship from the UA.

    Follow Hannah Dinell on Twitter.

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