Comcast is certainly a major player within the communications industry. While it’s known primarily for its cable and media-related services, it is committed to assisting entrepreneurs take their business concepts to the next level by launching an initiative called the Project StartUp Entrepreneur Forum.
In fact, Detroit is one of three cities to be involved in this forum, which takes place this June, at TechTown. Submissions are due May 19.
I recently spent time with Randy Jones, director, public relations, for the company’s Heartland Region, which includes Michigan, to share his thoughts on Project StartUp and Comcast’s commitment to entrepreneurship.
Lee: Detroit was recently selected as one of three cities for Project StartUp Entrepreneur Forum. Please recap this program and its importance.
Jones: The Project Startup Entrepreneur Forum is a pitch competition where $20,000 in cash and technology services will be awarded. Detroit is one of three U.S. cities (Boston and Provo, Utah, are the other cities) selected for this salute to the spirit of entrepreneurship and will host an event on June 4 at TechTown.
Presented by A&E, RocketHub and Comcast Business, the purpose of Project Startup is to support small businesses and help entrepreneurs take their innovative ideas to the next level. Forum attendees will also learn about technology’s role in launching successful startups and the basics of crowdfunding, an increasingly popular method of financing small business growth. Hosting aspiring entrepreneurs, local businesses, business students and community leaders, Project Startup is giving established small business owners and entrepreneurs a chance to compete for seed money to help take their innovative business ideas to the next level.
Lee: There are other cities involved. Why was Detroit selected?
Jones: Comcast Business knows first-hand the vibrancy of our entrepreneurial community and the tremendous impact small businesses have had in our region. Early in this partnership, both A&E and RocketHub took notice of the growing number of entrepreneurs and small business owners who have managed to flourish in Detroit despite the city’s recent economic challenges. In the end, selecting Detroit was an easy choice.
Lee: This program targets entrepreneurs. Is it free and open to the public or does a business have to be preselected?
Jones: Any individuals representing an established Michigan-based small business can enter. Applicants can enter by signing up online at projectstartuplive.com.
Winners are selected from two rounds of competition: For Round 1, entrants submit a pitch of their existing small business. When the entry period is over (May 19 for Detroit) judges will select three startups to appear as finalists in Round 2. For Round 2, three Michigan finalists will be chosen to appear on stage in front of a live audience at the June 4 event. Those finalists will present a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges who will name one winning startup and two runners-up.
There is no cost to enter the pitch competition or attend the June 4 event, which is open to the public. However, all guests must RSVP at ProjectStartupLive.com since seating is limited.
Lee: I’m sure many reading this will be surprised Comcast is involved in developing incubator-like efforts targeting entrepreneurs. Many will think Comcast’s primarily in the cable business, so why is this important to the company and what’s behind this point of emphasis?
Jones: Just as Comcast remains committed to delivering world-class products and a superior customer experience to its residential customers, Comcast Business is equally committed to supporting small businesses. We understand firsthand the importance and role technology plays in not only growing existing businesses, but also launching successful startups. Project Startup aligns to Comcast Business’ goals of helping businesses of all sizes succeed through new efficiencies, reduced costs and improved customer support, and is an ideal opportunity for us to help entrepreneurs take their spirit of innovation to the next level.
Lee: Program expectations – specifically, how long is it and what can participants expect during and upon completion?
Jones: In addition to being engaging and informational, we want these forums to provide startups and small businesses the chance to compete for real money and critical technology services. At the end of the day, our hope is to provide crucial seed money to three local startups in a fun, interactive setting. Submissions are being accepted now through May 19 and the Detroit program ends upon the selection of winners at the June 4 event.
Lee: Is it a competition? Please explain and share what’s at stake.
Jones: Yes, this is a pitch competition. Across the three cities and events, participants will vie for a total of $60,000 in cash prizes and technology services. Interested individuals need to simply submit a pitch for their business in 250 words or less. (View official rules.) For the Detroit event, a total of $20,000 in cash and technology services will be awarded ($15,000 to the grand prize winner and $2,500 to each runner up).
Lee: How can businesses receive more information including registering for this event?
Jones: Additional information, as well as the opportunity to submit an entry, or register as an attendee, is available online at projectstartuplive.com.
Lee: Other thoughts?
Jones: Providing a unique spotlight on how technology can help improve workplace efficiency, Project Startup will be a great forum to share insights and best practices about launching or growing a small business, while hearing from a panel of top experts offering strategies to help enterprising business owners succeed. I encourage small business owners and creative entrepreneurs throughout metro Detroit and the state to take advantage of this free opportunity to glean tips, insights and creative thoughts on how to grow their business. Thanks for opportunity.