Innovation competition offers prize

USC students, alumni and faculty will soon compete to develop innovative methods of communication for a top prize of $50,000.

Young President’s Organization, a global network of young entrepreneurs and U.S. Trust, an investment management company based in New York, are sponsoring the Y-Prize Business Plan Challenge at USC.

Contestants are required to submit an idea by Oct. 10. Students, alumni and faculty from the Marshall School of Business, Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism, Viterbi School of Engineering and School of Cinematic Arts are eligible. YPO said it chose these schools because they were best suited for the competition.

The competition is intended for students who have a business plan but lack the means to finance it.

“It’s for the early stages,” Miller said. “You may have your own business plan but you haven’t gone to professional investors yet. If you have raised outside money, you’re probably too far and don’t qualify for the competition.”

Gene Miller, director of the Grief Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said the competition is one of the largest competitions at Marshall.

The awarded team can decide how to divide and use the money, according to the Y-Prize website.

Twenty semifinalists will be chosen Nov. 1 and will receive a YPO mentor who will help develop their plan into a feasible business opportunity. The teams will be narrowed down to three Dec. 1 for the finals.

Finalists will give a 15-minute presentation to the judges and answer questions for five minutes.

The panel of judges will be members of YPO, U.S. Trust or people who have experience in entrepreneurship. The winner will be chosen using the Return on Investment Approach, which compares the money needed to endorse the plan with how it will advance new media.

“The idea is to stimulate new businesses,” Miller said. “To stimulate entrepreneurial thinking. That’s the motivation.”

The final presentation and award ceremony will be Jan. 26, 2012 at Town & Gown.