An adventure race that has zombies chasing participants to the finish line might not be everyone’s idea of a good time. But the business certainly has legs -- race organizers Reed Street Productions
took home $17,500 as the top winner at the seventh annual Cupid’s Cup business competition, hosted by the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business on March 30, at the University of Maryland.
With 13 races scheduled across the U.S. this year, Reed Street Productions expects to bring in over $3 million in revenues and plans to double the number of events they offer next year. The race operator won over the audience and the judges – including alumnus Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour, the Baltimore-based leader in performance apparel, footwear and accessories – to win top prize and the People’s Choice award. They beat out 10G Systems, a web-based transportation software provider; Route One Apparel, an e-commerce platform for creative apparel designed by students; Visisonics, a UMD spinout that enables realistic 3D audio for music, movies and gaming in standard headphones; and runner-up Food Safety Administration, a provider of online courses for food service professionals required to earn food and alcohol safety certifications (winner of $7,500 second prize).
The competition was the highlight of the UMD Entrepreneurship Invitational, a showcase of the university’s impressive impact on venture creation and economic development in the region. The audience of more than 600 heard from campus leaders – President Wallace Loh, Smith School Dean Anand Anandalingam, and Clark School of Engineering Dean Darryll Pines – as well as keynotes from
Plank and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
The day began with the launch of Startup Maryland, a statewide initiative of the White House’s Startup America Partnership to stimulate emerging companies. The BB&T Business Invitational followed as a lively showcase of thriving University of Maryland and Washington-Baltimore region startups. Attendees circulated the Prince George’s ballroom in Stamp Student Union, learning about new ventures from entrepreneurs at tradeshow-style tables. Then everyone moved downstairs to pack Hoff Theater for the Cupid’s Cup competition.
The five finalists had six minutes to pitch their businesses to Plank, Rob McGovern, chairman and CEO of Jobfox and founder of CareerBuilder.com, and a few other veteran entrepreneurs serving as judges. Then the audience had a chance to text a vote for their favorite pitch with the judges deliberated and the University of Maryland pep band roused the crowd.
Before the winners were announced, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley spoke about the state’s commitment to fostering entrepreneurship and the university’s integral role in fueling innovation and new business creation. Plank echoed O’Malley’s call for entrepreneurship to strengthen the economy, and he inspired the audience with Under Armour’s story of success.
Then came the winners’ announcement. Dan Waetjen, BB&T group president for the Greater Washington region, presented prizes from BB&T for participants of the BB&T Business Invitational, decided by audience vote. Last year’s Cupid’s Cup winner, My Fridge Rental, won $2,000 for best student/alumni company, and Veenome won the same for best regional company.
Then Plank presented the big checks and the coveted trophy cup to the winners of Cupid’s Cup.