Blue Ocean Challenge’s $250K Prize Draws 16 Startups to Fort Collins

What does it take to get entrepreneurs from around the country to come to Fort Collins, a college town in northern Colorado, for a business competition?

Apparently the chance to win a $250,000 grand prize and receive mentoring from the people who made OtterBox a leading brand in mobile phone accessories will do the trick.

The organizers of the Blue Ocean Enterprises Challenge, a new business plan competition in Fort Collins, CO, announced its 16 finalists Tuesday. The startups come from a range of industries, including software, medical devices, and consumer electronics.

Eight of the startups come from Colorado, with the rest coming from around the U.S. to compete for the winner take all $250K prize, one of the largest in the country for a business plan competition. More than 120 companies applied to participate.

The competition and accompanying events to encourage entrepreneurship will take place May 23-24.

The event is sponsored by Blue Ocean Enterprises, which is part of Blue Ocean Holdings, a holding company co-owned by OtterBox founder, chairman, and owner Curt Richardson. Otterbox makes cases for mobile phones and is one of the most successful companies in northern Colorado, with 2012 revenue of $573.9 million and nearly 600 employees.

Richardson wants his companies to give back to their communities, Blue Ocean Holdings CEO Kurt Hoeven said when the competition was launched last fall. He and the other organizers also want to help nurture and promote the growing ecosystem of entrepreneurs in the Fort Collins area.

“There’s already a ton of really great things going on in this region with startups and growing companies. We’d love to help amplify it,” Hoeven said.

At today’s press conference announcing the finalists, Hoeven said the organizers hope the challenge becomes an annual event.

The Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Colorado State University Business School and Hewlett Packard also are sponsoring the event.

The Blue Ocean Challenge is running a parallel competition for student startups. Sixteen finalists from four Colorado universities have been picked to compete. Judges will pick the winner on May 2. The grand prize for the student track is $20,000.

For a list of the startups that made the cut, click here.


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