Looking for the next Google, SSU, cluster set business plan contest

ROHNERT PARK – Polish up those bright ideas, budding entrepreneurs. The first business plan pageant is under way at the North Bay iHub and the winner could be the next Nick Sturiale.

He’s the winner of the first business plan contest at UC Berkeley 10 years ago, a distinction that brought him to the attention of venture firm Sevin Rosen Fund. With capital behind it, Mr. Sturiale’s company Timbre Technologies sold for $138 million within 18 months.

That kind of success story can happen here, says Sonoma State University economics Professor Robert Eyler and Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster Director Michael Newell. They’re emulating the seed round business contest held annually by the Lester Center for Innovation at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley.

“We got the idea from the University of Texas,” said Jerry Engel, founder and director of the Lester Center. “Berkeley and MIT followed suit. It’s been an enormously effective way to showcase and develop business startups.”

Unlike the UC contest, the iHub’s seed round business competition is open to both students and non-students from all the North Bay counties, including Mendocino, Lake and Solano, said Mr. Newell.

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