Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship Announces Winners of 2021 Big Ideas Challenge

April 14, 2021 | News Story

Mankato, Minn. – Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship announced the winners (listed below) in the final round of the 2021 Big Ideas Challenge venture competition Tuesday, April 13. This year’s competition was held virtually.

The Big Ideas Challenge is a venture competition started by Minnesota State Mankato’s College of Business in 2015. The competition encourages students and recent alumni to pursue the “entrepreneurial path,” according to Yvonne Cariveau, director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

“This is my fifth year running the Big Ideas Challenge and the second year online,” said Cariveau. “We’ve had 40 Big Ideas finalists now, and more than 17 of those businesses are running today with many employing others. The growth in confidence that these young people show as they work to research and develop an invention or business idea is exciting to be a part of. The regional connections they make with people that support them are so valuable. And this is just the beginning, whether this first business succeeds or fails, they learn from this process that they can do it, they can create organizations, they can make innovations and dreams happen.”

The 2021 winners include:

Tocco VR
Jim Boyd, Engineering
Mentors: Mark Bietz,, and Pam Bishop, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation
First Place: $5,000 and Automatic Semifinalist Spot in the 2021 Minnesota Cup

Hearing Glasses
Abdelrahman Elkenawy, Electrical Engineering; Kaitlin Gloege, Management Information Systems; and Alex Shepherd, Computer Information Technology.
Mentor: Matt Lessard, Small Business Development Center
Second Place: $3,000 and High Tech Division winner of $4,000, for a total of $7,000

Smart Bee Hives
Sumit Mahajan, Manufacturing Engineering and Abdelrahman Elkhatib, Electrical Engineering
Mentor: Jeremy Geske, Minnesota State Mankato
Third Place: $2,000, Ag/Food/Beverage winners of $3,000 and People’s Choice winners of $2,000, for a total of $7,000

This year a total of $19,000 in prizes was awarded. Prizes for the Big Ideas Challenge were provided by Lloyd Companies, All American Foods, Daren & Sarah Cotter, Jones Metal, BankVista, and promotional sponsorship was provided by MN Valley Business Magazine and Launch Minnesota Southwest (part of the statewide Launch Minnesota efforts to foster entrepreneurship across Minnesota).

More information about the Big Ideas Challenge is available here. Those with questions may contact Yvonne Cariveau from the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship by email at or by phone at 507-389-1018.

Minnesota State Mankato’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship is part of the University’s College of Business, but it serves the entire University as well as alumni and private and public businesses and organizations. The Center’s mission is to facilitate the launch of the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and dynamic organizations through education, research and outreach.

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 14,604 students, is part of the Minnesota State system, which includes 30 colleges and seven universities.

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