The University of Alabama successfully conducted the prestigious Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan Competition by Leveraging the StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform

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Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute at The University of Alabama ran the flagship student, faculty and community business plan competitions on the StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform since the COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to run it in the traditional format.

StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform

"At the University of Alabama, we were faced with a decision of cancelling our student annual business plan competition as a result of the pandemic. We were fortunate to have been working with StartupWind, and quickly saw a path to use it for a virtual competition" - Theresa Welbourne, Director AEI

The Edward K. Aldag Jr. Business Plan competition is a flagship event for the entrepreneurial student community. The goal of the competition is to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tuscaloosa and throughout Alabama. In addition to the prize money, the winners also receive space in the EDGE Incubator at The University of Alabama to start their business and receive mentoring from local entrepreneurs and executives.

Traditionally, the competition is conducted with multiple rooms representing different tracks of the challenge where the entrepreneurs pitch in front of the judges. However, the pandemic and the social distancing guidelines made it impossible for participants to meet in different physical rooms. Due to the pandemic, AEI (Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute) was faced with the possibility of canceling its flagship annual Business Plan Competition for students and faculty. The AEI team creatively saw a path forward and quickly pivoted to use the StartupWind Virtual Competition Platform to run the competition as a virtual competition.

The AEI team leveraged the StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform to create different program cohorts mapping to different physical rooms for each track of the competition. The students and faculties submitted business plans digitally to the respective program cohorts, judges were assigned for each cohort group and the judges scored online while the startups used video conferencing capabilities to pitch to the judges virtually. The shortlisted ventures then progressed to semi-final program cohorts and then ultimately to the Grand Finale cohort while conducting the end-to-end process virtually.

The key capabilities of StartupWind Virtual Innovation platform that were leveraged are:

  • Virtual Business Plan Competition: Ability to submit business plans, assign judges, score, and shortlisting ventures for each round and each track of the competition.
  • Private Program Cohorts: Ability to create private program cohorts for each track and round of the competition to align with the structure that the AEI team uses every year.
  • Embedded Social Feedback: Ability for the judges and mentors to provide feedback on every module of the business plan so that the entrepreneur can benefit from it.

Dr. Theresa Welbourne, Executive Director, Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute said, "At the University of Alabama, we were faced with a decision of cancelling our student annual business plan competition and our new faculty/staff competition due to students being off-campus as a result of the pandemic. We were incredibly fortunate to have been working with StartupWind, and we quickly saw a path forward to use that tool for a virtual competition. Within four weeks we pivoted from an on-site program to a virtual competition - for both events. Judges, facilitators, and competitors all were extremely pleased with the new format. We were able to continue the annual flagship Edward K. Aldag, Jr. Business Plan Competition.

"The StartupWind Virtual Competition solution supported the creation of online business plan portals that judges could access to review, on their own time, video presentations as well as the full business plan decks. Also available were on-line customized judging forms. StartupWind’s cohort model was critical in creating a similar structure for multiple tracks (and rooms) and rounds of the competition and migrating shortlisted business plans to the next rounds. Additionally, we now have all the judges and contestants on the platform, and we are set to work with them during the summer.

"StartupWind’s software and the support team helped us make our flagship event as a resounding success, receiving kudos from all our stakeholders!"

Naren Patil, the founder & CEO of StartupWind said, "The pandemic and social distancing disrupting our lives as well as the ability of our customers to continue to run their innovation programs in this changing world. With the StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform we are offering solutions for seamlessly running virtual competitions, virtual accelerator programs, and virtual mentoring programs. StartupWind Virtual Innovation Platform allows our customers to be safe while continuing to deliver the impact by running their innovation programs virtually.”

About StartupWind, Inc

Headquartered in Cupertino, California, StartupWind unveils a new way to connect, ideate, mentor, and scale startups. StartupWind has been delivering an impact to about 25,000 users affiliated to over 100 universities across 100 countries in the world. It is helping universities, states, and corporations to scale their innovation and entrepreneurship programs by delivering a digital Innovation Network and Virtual Innovation Platform that offers tools for ideation, customer discovery, business model canvas, business planning, competitions, mentoring, and learning management system.
Please visit for more information.

About Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute
The Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute (AEI) was founded to promote and support entrepreneurship in the Culverhouse College of Business and across The University of Alabama. The Alabama Entrepreneurship Institute (AEI) focuses on learning that accelerates the growth of businesses and creates employment opportunities. AEI provides students with unique opportunities to practically experience the world outside their classrooms.
Please visit for more information.

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