The proverbial elevator pitch—an idea proposal brief enough to suggest on an elevator ride—is making its way online in a competition that is open to all students. 

The 1,000 Pitches contest will award nine prizes of $1,000 each, and will provide winners with connections in the business world that might help make their dream a reality.

To enter, a student must record a 30-second to three-minute video with their core idea for a new product, business, or social venture and submit it online in one of nine categories.

The ideal pitch includes several key elements, according to Jordan White of Greenville, North Carolina, a sophomore majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering and president of the Entrepreneur Club at Virginia Tech (VTE-club), which is sponsoring the competition at Virginia Tech.

“You want to cover why it’s so impactful, how it’s beneficial to a broad group of people, would it catch people’s attention, and would investors be willing to invest in it,” White said. “Those are the areas that you want to target in your pitch.”

Virginia Tech students will have the opportunity to create webcam videos on campus. Stations will be set up at various locations for emerging entrepreneurs to record their idea pitch and get a free shirt.  

Virginia Tech is one of ten universities participating in the 1,000 Pitches competition. The contest runs through Nov. 9. A panel of ten judges will review the videos and rate them based on a rubric. The top ten in each category are then re-judged and the winner of each category receives $1,000 and connections with people who can help them develop their idea.

“The goal is to, one, just get people thinking of ideas, encourage innovation,” White said, “and, two, actually give the ideas that do surface to the top some financial resources and help to execute those ideas.”

“That’s really important -- to get your ideas out there and have other people hear them,” said VTE-club Vice President Ojas Mhetar of Bristow, Virginia, a junior majoring in computer science in the College of Engineering. “Maybe no one’s acting on your idea because they haven’t heard of it yet. It can be hard starting a business in college when you don’t know everything. And we have a lot of entrepreneurs around who are willing to give advice, especially in downtown Blacksburg. A lot of those entrepreneurs want to help students with whatever they can.”

Local sponsors including the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Division of Student Affairs, and numerous local companies have provided funding for the competition, said White.

Any student may submit up to three pitches. Examples of past pitches are available on the 1,000 Pitches website, along with a leader board of which universities have submitted the most entries.

Categories for submission include environment, health, consumer products and small business, “U-provements” (defined as “tangible improvements to your college campus”), education, web and software, tech and hardware, mobile apps, and research.

With the establishment of the Innovate living-learning community in 2013, and the continued integration of entrepreneurship into many academic subject areas, Virginia Tech students in all disciplines are encouraged to dream big and take action. The VTE-club is open to students of all years and majors. Mhetar described it as community- and event-based organization with the goal of connecting students with each other, with local business people, and with resources to help bring their ideas to fruition.

Written by Emily Hughes of Ashburn, Virginia, a sophomore majoring in communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.