Fearless Ideas Track

This track is for students who do not yet have a developed venture. This idea-style challenge asks students to improve/solve a specific problem each year through venture creation.

The inaugural theme for this track will empower students to develop a venture idea that tackles systemic racism in the fields of business, technology, and/or mental health. To get started, interested students simply need to ask themselves: "What kind of venture could I create that would improve or solve one of these problems?"

Racism + Mental Health

Students with any venture idea seeking to address a problem or disparity at the intersection of racism and mental health are encouraged to enter their submission. The following are a few examples of problems within this field that might spark ideas for those who don't have one yet.

Example 1: African Americans and COVID-19 Effects

"COVID-19 has impacted African American lives, including their mental health, at a higher rate compared to other racial/ethnic groups...Systemic racism [has been found] to be the primary operator of the mental health disparity. (Ibrahimi et al., IJMA)

Example 2: Native Communities and PTSD

"Native and Indigenous Americans report higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and alcohol dependence than any other ethnic/racial group." (Mental Health America)

Example 3: Mental Health Treatment

"Among college students with clinically significant mental health problems, 50% of white students received treatment in the past year, compared to 25% of African American and Asian students, and 33% of Latinx students." (Boston University)

Racism + Business

Students with any venture idea seeking to address a problem or disparity at the intersection of racism and business are encouraged to enter their submission. The following are a few examples of problems within this field that might spark ideas for those who don't have one yet.

Example 1: Profitability

In 2019, the most diverse companies outperformed the least diverse companies by 36%. However, diversity in executive teams is growing at a much slower pace. (McKinsey)

Example 2: Loans

"According to a 2019 survey of small businesses by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta...Black business owners were approved for smaller loans than comparable White business owners." (Washington Post)

Example 3: Brand Activism

"Americans want brands to step up and play a central role in addressing systemic racism...60% of Americans said that they will buy or boycott a brand based on if and how it responds to the [summer 2020 racial injustice] protests. Young adults—ages 18-34—are the most proactive in their response, with 78% of respondents saying that a brand must speak out." (Edelman)

Racism + Tech

Students with any venture idea seeking to address a problem or disparity at the intersection of racism and tech are encouraged to enter their submission. The following are a few examples of problems within this field that might spark ideas for those who don't have one yet.

Example 1: Access to Capital

"Firms started by Black women received only .0006% of VC funding raised by startups between 2009 and 2017." (Kauffman Foundation)

Example 2: Bias in Artificial Intelligence

"Programs developed by companies at the forefront of AI research have resulted in a string of errors that look uncannily like the darker biases of humanity: a Google image recognition program labelled the faces of several black people as gorillas; a LinkedIn advertising program showed a preference for male names in searches, and a Microsoft chatbot called Tay spent a day learning from Twitter and began spouting antisemitic messages." (The Guardian)

Example 3: Workforce Diversity

Since 2014, Silicon Valley companies have been disclosing the demographics of their workforces… but little has changed, and the industry is still predominantly white. At Google and Microsoft, the share of U.S. technical employees who are black or Latino rose by less than a percentage point since 2014. The share of black technical workers at Apple is unchanged at 6 percent, less than half blacks' 13 percent share of the U.S. population. (SHRM)

How to Apply

Applications are open from March 1 to April 5.

The Fearless Ideas Track submission consists of a video pitch and slide deck. You may also include your logo and website, if you have them.

1. Slide deck: Build a professional, attractive slide deck (5-10 slides max) that effectively communicates the following components about your venture idea:

  • Problem
  • 2-4 reasons for this problem - why/how does this problem exist in the first place?
  • Economic and societal impacts of the problem
  • Scope of the problem (# or % of specific people/institutions/communities affected)
  • Previous attempt(s) at solving this problem / Competition
  • Solution + Value Proposition
  • Target customer
  • How your venture could earn money (not just donations/grants)
  • Use of prize funds ($5,000)
  • Team

2. Video Pitch: Create a 5-minute video pitch that showcases your efforts to understand this problem and your unique idea to improve or solve it. All the information required for your slide deck should be communicated in your video pitch, however, you do not need to present your slide deck in the video. Creativity is highly encouraged! We encourage students to take advantage of UMD's One Button Studio for this. Upload your unlisted video to YouTube (here's how) and submit the link in the application.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Lottie Byram at lbyram@umd.edu, or sign up for office hours with Lottie Byram or Sara Herald.

Grand Prize

$5,000 and guaranteed admission to our Terp Startup summer accelerator program (additional $5,000 stipend)

Read more about all the tracks in Pitch Dingman Competition 2021.

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