THE INNOVATION INSTITUTE: Randall Family Big Idea Competition Deadline Fast Approaching


By Nicholas Zarras

The end of January marks the arrival of the Big Idea Center’s largest event of the school year; the Randall Family Big Idea Competition and the opportunity for Pitt students of any level from anywhere in the university to compete to win $100,000 in cash prizes.

The Big Idea Competition is an opportunity for Pitt students, undergraduate or graduate, to team up with classmates and bring their ideas for a new product, service, app or non-profit to life. Teams must consist of at least two Pitt students, and have until Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 11:59 p.m. to apply. Any Pitt student with any major can apply, and all you need is an idea. Teams in the past have ranged from partners to groups of more than 10 students. The university’s Big Idea Center also offers its Team Finder service online for those who are searching for teammates. Any interested student will need an idea by Feb. 5, but participants are welcome to change that idea when the competition starts if a better idea arises after registration. Find more information at

One of the great upsides to the Big Idea Competition is its low barrier to entry. Any student is welcome to pitch an idea. There is no expectation of prior knowledge. The competition offers entrepreneurial experience that cannot be gained elsewhere at Pitt. As an open experience, students have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Mentorship and coaching will be given from both outside professionals and the Big Idea Center’s Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs). This mentorship, combined with the competition’s bootcamp, will help students take their ideas to the next level.

What is truly valuable about the competition is its ability to unleash entrepreneurship in students and to find out if there truly is a market for your idea. Winners from years past came to Pitt not knowing they were entrepreneurs and left the Big Idea Competition with a better knowledge of not just entrepreneurship but constructing a business model and understanding the process of innovation. Several students who have participated in the competition have gone on to launch startup companies.

As mentioned, applying is easy. The winning team will receive a grand prize of $25,000, and there are additional cash prizes for the second and third place teams, as well as for other competing teams in various categories, such as People’s Choice. The competition will begin in February and run until the final round on March 21.

Entrepreneurship at the Big Idea Center does not end after the Big Idea Competition, as additional programs to encourage innovation will be available later in the semester.

For those looking to learn more about the Randall Family Big Idea Competition, or for those who simply want to ask questions, an information session will be held on Friday,Feb.1, from 4 to 5p.m. at the Big Idea Center, located in Thackery Hall from O’Hara Street. If you can’t make it to the info session, you can email questions to Big Idea Center’s director, Babs Carryer, at [email protected] The Big Idea Center can be found on social media @pittbigidea, on Twitter and Instagram. Don’t miss out on the innovation event of the year.