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Big ideas bring big prizes for aspiring entrepreneurs

UMBC’s Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship held their annual Big Idea Competition Thursday night. Eight individuals and teams presented to over 50 students in The Commons Sports Zone.

Hosted by Dr. Vivian Armor, the center’s director, participants presented entrepreneurial ideas that were solutions to current problems. A panel of UMBC alumni entrepreneurs judged the competition.

Judges and student audience members were encouraged to ask questions of each team after the presentations. The audience voted to determine the winner and cash prizes were given out between $250 and $750 for first through third place, as well as best presentation. This year there was a tie for best presentation, one of the winners being Emily Schultheis, a senior chemical engineering major and entrepreneurship minor. 

Schultheis’ idea was called Ad Play, a social media app that allows users to rate product and advertising innovations to earn cash. This also gives company quick and honest feedback for a low cost.

Schultheis came up with her idea while participating in a competition through the Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship working with the brand management department for CoverGirl. The idea came to Schultheis and she decided to run with it.

Schultheis did participate in the competition previously, but this is her first time winning.

“I’m very happy. This is the last chance for me to do this before I graduate, so this is very nice.”

Patrick Dignan, a junior financial economics major, won third place with his idea of a website called Common Investing. After his presentation, Armor quipped that his sharp, blue suit made him look like he belonged on Wall Street.

“It was funny because I was on Wall Street,” Dignan said. “My mom had to make sure I had a nice suit. But I’d worked with Jim Kramer and people like that as an intern.”

During his internships, Dignan learned about PIPE Investments which stands for private investment in public equity. These investments can be done by large corporations for large sums of money, driving stock up. After these deals are done, the company’s stock is open to the public and that’s where Dignan’s idea comes into play.

Common Investing is a website that alerts users to when these deals are taking place. Although it is not intended to be financial advice, Dignan hopes to keep the consumer better informed of financial opportunities and make his idea a reality soon.

Dignan had watched the competition in the past, but this was his first year as a participant. He enjoyed the experience and appreciated Armor’s help

“She’s so passionate about it,” he said. “I wouldn’t have presented well at all if it hadn’t been for her helping me out.”