STORY UPDATE April 11, 2018: A Smith team of Anmei Zhi ’20, Nouhaila Norrendine ’20 and Elaona Lemoto ’20 won third place in this year’s Draper Competition for Collegiate Women Entrepreneurs for “Rebike,” an easy, affordable bike-sharing app for college students. In a surprise announcement, competition sponsors Melissa Parker Draper ’77 and her husband, venture capitalist Time Draper, doubled the amount of prize money awarded to the top three teams. Additional information about the 2018 competition is available online.
Smith’s annual Draper Competition is about to get a little North by Northampton.
In the same way that South by Southwest brings the new and innovative to Austin, Texas, this year’s Draper Competition will be a celebration of all things entrepreneurial — from an entrepreneurs’ career fair, to the annual business venture competition, to new elements, including virtual reality stations, an augmented-reality experience, free-food food trucks and a battle of the bands.
“Our goal on April 6 is to establish Smith College as a hub for everyone interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, while also celebrating Smith’s growing reputation as a stellar training ground for women entrepreneurs,” said Rene Heavlow, program director for Smith’s Jill Ker Conway Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center.
At the heart of the day is the annual Draper Competition, designed to hone the skills that undergraduate women need to advance through the process from idea to venture creation. Launched in 2013 with support from Melissa Parker Draper ’77 and her husband, venture capitalist Tim Draper, the competition offers undergraduate students — from Smith and across the country — a chance to showcase and pitch new business ventures to a panel of judges. This year, 20 Smith-led teams will be among those competing for the top prize of $10,000 and scholarships to Draper University of Heroes in California. Several previous Draper Competition participants have either launched or are working to launch their business ventures in the real world; Emily Morris ’19, for example, is developing ImmunoGo, a scientific research tool that functions as a Yelp for antibodies.
This year’s Draper Competition offers all students — not just competition participants — opportunities to network and explore entrepreneurial business opportunities. An Innovation and Resource area will highlight campus entrepreneurial programs, including the House Sustainability Challenge and the University Innovation Fellows. Attendees may interact with representatives from organizations including Draper University, VentureWell and Valley Venture Mentors. Other successful entrepreneurs, including 2016 Draper Competition winner Emily Levy of MightyWell, will share their experiences.
And this year’s event has other new elements:
— An augmented reality experience, curated by Link to VR, will take place throughout the Indoor Track and Tennis Facility.
— Four immersive virtual reality stations, a traditional photo booth and an animated GIF booth offer opportunities for fun and exploration.
— Local food trucks will be on site outside the ITT from 1 to 3:30 p.m. to provide cuisine ranging from Damn Yankees BBQ to Holyoke Hummus, Sun Kim Bop and Log Rolling. And Hot Oven Cookies will be there for dessert. Food is free with the purchase of a beverage.
— The day’s festivities conclude in John M. Greene Hall from 8 to 11 p.m. with a Battle of the Bands. Four local bands will compete for the title of Best Band in the Valley with the winner receiving professional recording studio time at Ghost Hit Recording in Holyoke. The concert features a special performance by Springfield’s own Malado, who has appeared on VH1’s Make a Band. This free event is wheelchair accessible and open to the public.