April 21, 2021

Student Startup Teams from 12 New Jersey Universities Compete To Be Named Most Innovative New Venture

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The sixth annual UPitchNJ, an innovative statewide collegiate business model competition showcasing the Garden State’s top young talent, will be held Friday, April 23, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in a livestreamed, virtual format together with Nokia Bell Labs. New Jersey’s college students, faculty, alumni, friends, and the public are all invited to watch virtually. To access the livestream, visit the UPitchNJ website, www.upitchnj.org. Or, you can join the livestream event on the UPitchNJ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/upitchnewjersey/ (On social media: #UPitchNJ)

The competition is organized by the UPitchNJ consortium, which represents the entrepreneurship education programs at New Jersey’s four-year colleges and universities. Twelve universities are participating in the sixth annual competition: Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Montclair State University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rider University, Rowan University, Rutgers University, Saint Peter’s University, Seton Hall University and Stevens Institute of Technology.

Paul Asel, Managing Partner at NGP Capital, a global venture firm with $1.2 billion assets under management and backed by Nokia, will deliver a keynote address to kick off the event. Select student teams will then pitch their startups in a virtual format to a panel of judges as they compete for cash prizes. Ansel will also serve as a contest judge with five other NGP Capital and Nokia Bell Labs senior executives: Paige Brown, NGP Capital Portfolio Analyst, Divya Raghavan, NGP Capital Senior Associate, and Nokia Bell Labs senior executives Thierry Klein, Sean Kennedy, and Tod Sizer.

Student teams will be judged on the innovation and originality of their startup idea and the quality of their oral presentations. The contest judges will also be looking for creative and innovative thinking about markets, products and services. The student teams will be evaluated on their perceived ability to execute the idea and turn it into a viable, profitable business and/or venture with significant social value.

To help the undergraduate entrepreneurship students prepare for the competition, Nokia Bell Labs paired each student startup team with a Nokia Bell Labs senior executive to serve as a mentor to the team.

Paul Asel, Managing Partner at NGP Capital, said, “Nokia Bell Labs has been a leading technology innovator globally for more than 90 years and has long supported New Jersey’s tech ecosystem. It is an honor for NGP Capital to collaborate with Nokia Bell Labs to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the wider community through the UPitchNJ contest. We look forward to help bring great ideas presented at UPitchNJ to fruition.”

“We are extremely grateful to Nokia Bell Labs for this extraordinary and innovative collaboration,” said Susan Scherreik, chair of the UPitchNJ consortium and founding director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Seton Hall University. “UPitchNJ showcases the best and brightest young entrepreneurs from all over the Garden State. Thanks to the coaching the teams are receiving from New Jersey’s top corporate research scientists at Nokia Bell Labs, our collegiate entrepreneurship students can take their startups to new heights.”

The joint effort between Nokia Bell Labs and the entrepreneurship programs at the state’s colleges and universities will benefit New Jersey in myriad ways. When companies in New Jersey seek to expand or move to the Garden State, a prime consideration is New Jersey’s highly educated workforce, especially employees who are innovative self-starters. With assistance from Nokia Bell Labs, these student entrepreneurs will be even better prepared for their careers, Scherreik noted.

UPitchNJ has been held together with Nokia Bell Labs for the past two years. Last year, the event was shifted to a virtual format after New Jersey and other states instituted social distancing requirements due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States.

In prior years, UPitchNJ has been held at one of the participating university’s campuses. Past hosts include Princeton University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University and Seton Hall University.

The competition aims to highlight the ingenuity and creativity of today’s college entrepreneurs, who are increasingly launching businesses from their dorm rooms. As entrepreneurship educators in New Jersey, we want to provide our entrepreneurial students with a networking forum with other students, mentors and potential investors.

We believe this competition will help brand New Jersey – home to Nokia Bell Labs and Thomas Edison – as the innovative state that it is, plus encourage young entrepreneurs to develop their businesses here, leading to economic growth and job creation.


Student teams will compete for the following prizes:

1st Place: $2,000

2nd Place: $1,500

3rd Place: $1,000

Best Early-Stage Startup: $1,500

Audience Choice Award: $500.


For more information, visit the contest website: https://upitchnj.org/

The event is free and open to the public to watch in livestream, accessed through the UpitchNJ website or the UPitchNJ Facebook page.

Press Contact: Susan Scherreik, chair, UPitchNJ, and director, Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Seton Hall University, at Susan.Scherreik-Hynes@shu.edu.

(On social media: #UPitchNJ)