After months of brainstorming, researching, developing and planning, Biola University’s 2023 Startup Competition finalists will pitch their plans to mentors, judges and peers at the 8th annual Startup Competition Finals on April 21, 2023. Founder of VSCO, Greg Lutze, is this year’s keynote speaker and Chick-Fil-A is providing free box lunches to the first 120 attendees who register for the event.

Sponsored by Biola’s Office of Innovation, the startup competition is an initiative that offers all current Biola undergraduate students, graduate students and recent alumni the opportunity to transform a promising idea into a successful startup business or nonprofit, aided by experienced executives and business leaders.

The startups are competing to win capital to launch or scale their companies. The first place team will take home $10K, along with a gift-in-kind $25K legal package from Holland & Knight and a $2K branding package from Vividly Creative Co. The second place winner receives $6,000 and third place $4,000, with other funding allocated based on pitch results.

Winning one of the top three prizes is only the icing on the cake, however. Judges and invited guests are active angel investors and venture capitalists with a redemptive lens for their growing portfolios. Connections with these capital providers are opportunities for student entrepreneurs to take their plans to the next stage.

Why startup competitions are important to entrepreneurship

Innovation at Biola is sparked by the creativity of humans under God’s grace and in His light. Innovation is then scaled by the ingenuity of redemptive entrepreneurs dedicated to solving problems, co-creating with evangelical customers and teams who are blessed with skills and desires to build. Innovation is curated further alongside a community of mentors, advisors, investors and advocates who drive impactful, conscientious business plans.

This spark of entrepreneurship — with values-aligned capital partners, sustainable markets and positive industry trends — can catapult startups toward growth. This is the ideal scenario for any startup team to thrive. Many Biola alumni have taken this commissioning to bless scaling businesses and transforming customers’ hearts, like Zach King’s (’12) video and book production conglomerate.

What startup competitions deliver is all of these touch points in one controlled environment of support and accountability. It creates an experience which connects all innovation stakeholders, like students pitching, experienced entrepreneurs, impactful investors, generous alumni, and supportive faculty. What is unique at Biola is the combination of a community of redemptive innovators, entrepreneurs and investors with the deep roots of Christ-filled business strategies and biblically-sound theology. The Biola Startup Competition helps students conceptualize and launch businesses aimed at resolving the world's largest challenges through faith, skill and entrepreneurial spirit.

It takes a village to launch an entrepreneur

Keynote speaker Lutze is one of five handpicked redemptive investors and exceptional leaders selected to judge the competition. The judges include:

To prepare students and give them courage to take the stage and pitch their startups, there are 16 pitch coaches from the innovation ecosystem who stepped up in support:

Meet the 2023 Biola Startup Competition finalists

The seven startups pitching for capital at the April 21 event are:

  1. Eat Up: Asian-inspired lunchables. A truly multidisciplinary team from three universities, this venture is working to honor family traditions and building more awareness of AAPI cultures. Led by Biola Business Administration major Ben Chi, Biola Computer Science major Joseph Hartono, USC student Emily Lynch, and San Diego State student Trisha Vann.

  2. CityVend: App to find and buy from street food vendors and food trucks. Inspired by a desire to help all small businesses thrive, Biola alumnus Carlos Ventura (’22) — a first generation student dedicated to helping his community of Hispanic families — desires to connect street vendors with customers who want to shop small and build thriving local economies.

  3. Thank God: Minimalistic designed fashion for the Kingdom of God. Another multi-university endeavor, Biola business major Grant Lawrence and Arizona State student Sterling Reed are focusing on reminding people to thank God every day for all of their blessings and continued grace.

  4. Kika: A malnutrition awareness and prevention not-for-profit, blessing families in Guatemala. A strong and dynamic group of Hispanic students are scaling a child sponsorship and malnutrition program to Biola and beyond. Biola political science major Kiara Rascon is the CEO leading a multidisciplinary team, including Biola English major Diana Escobar, Biola math major Karla Fuentes and Biola political science major and Torrey Fellow Isahi Minero. Biola psychology and sociology major Cienna Lopez is overseeing marketing.

  5. The Creative Forum: Independent production company supporting redemptive filmmakers. A driven group of creatives — Cinema and Media Arts students, graduate students and alumni — want to make it easier and more sustainable for filmmakers to make the impact they truly want to make instead of fitting into the traditional path of mainstream media. Crowell MBA student and alumna Shalisha Moreno (‘22) and Biola cinema and media arts major Elizabeth Wolff lead, along with Biola business major Gianna Troppy, Biola cinema and media arts major and business minor Victoria James, and Biola alumnus J.D. Elliot (’21).

  6. FlutterGo: An innovative app for connecting millennials in a low code, low frills way for massive connectivity. The mission of FlutterGo is to make connecting quick and convenient, spurring on meaningful connections in a fast-paced, impersonal world. Co-founders Noah Walters and Biola Bible, Theology, and Ministry major Gabriel Anderson are coding, conducting customer discovery and have a minimum viable product (MVP) ready to go.

  7. “7”: Real estate solutions for marginalized low-income communities. “7” understands that housing insecurity is pervasive both locally and globally, and strives to create strong communities in which residents will labor together to cultivate a life and community with one another. Semaj Thompson is the innovator, an airman in the United States Air Force who is currently completing his MBA at Crowell.

The 2023 Biola Startup Competition is April 21 from 2 to 6 p.m. in Moats Lecture Hall (Business 109) in Crowell School of Business. Admission to watch the competition is free and open to the public. Register for the event online. Learn more about Biola’s Office of Innovation.