On Thursday, April 22 and Friday, April 23, 2021, Maddie Palmersheim (senior) and Grace Hartnett (senior) represented UNI at e-Fest hosted by the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. e-Fest was an online competition that consisted of a pitch competition and the Schulze Innovation Challenge that awarded participants with over $215k in prize money.

The first round of the competition started in February where nearly 100 student businesses submitted applications. Judges chose the top 25 teams based on market opportunity, business model advantages, product/service overview, marketing and sales, revenue landscape, current status, and quality of the submission. Palmersheim and Hartnett began their application at the beginning of the semester working with an Iowa videographer, Eric Reding, and a JPEC tenant, Anna Gilbreath (freshman), to bring their submission video to life. Palmersheim reflects,

“We only had one shot to get a foot in the door to this competition for the potential to win significant funding for our venture. I knew instantly that I wanted this to be professionally done. I studied submission videos of the top 25 finalists from 2019 so I knew where our standards needed to be set. Eric and Anna worked thoroughly with us to bring our visions to reality."

Hartnett and Palmersheim competed with their concept, Virgo. This is a tech platform that brings together freelancers with businesses needing their services. The concept is similar to Upwork and Fiverr but focuses on local connections and fixing the provider pool currently experienced on existing sites. The team received word that they made it to the second round at the end of March and began prepping for their 15-minute live pitch for the April competition.

The top 25 teams were broken into groups of 5 and the 1st place winner from each pitch-room advanced to the final round. Palmersheim and Hartnett placed 3rd in their room and received a relatively small, yet significant amount in funding. Palmersheim also placed 1st in the Schulze Innovation Challenge on day 2 with a group of various participants in the competition. Additional prize money was awarded for this. Palmersheim reflects,

“It was a weekend of defeat and triumph. We were definitely prepping and aiming to receive high funding for the venture, but we competed against many great teams from schools like MIT and Georgetown. I can’t be anything but grateful for the prize money we did receive and the opportunity to compete. This will be my final entrepreneurship competition as a college student and I can definitely say I’m going out with a bang.”