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Ann Arbor Spark

March 11, 2021

A New Wave of Participants Join the 2020-21 Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Pitch Competition

With registration now complete, the Blue Ocean Pitch Competition has received record numbers in the contest’s sixth year. Drawing from the renowned Blue Ocean Strategy book, the high school competition encourages students to build ideas from the ground up and pitch innovative concepts for real prize money. For the first time, the competition received pitches from every inhabitable continent.

There was a total of 1100 registrations from 47 countries with 78 percent of pitches submitted by teams and 23 percent submitted by individuals. This tremendous growth is indicative of the competitions’ growing prestige among high school entrepreneurs. Additionally, this cycle showed exponentially high participation from some of the top STEM schools in the country. 

Executive director and University of Michigan lecturer, Ted Dacko continues to propel the competition forward. Dacko works as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) with Ann Arbor SPARK’s business accelerator program mentoring early stage entrepreneurs. “Ted is a fixture in Ann Arbor’s dynamic entrepreneurial community,” said Bill Mayer, Ann Arbor SPARK’s vice president of entrepreneurial services. “The insight he shares with our clients is based on firsthand experience, making it both incredibly relatable and actionable. Ted is incredibly committed to coaching startups and supporting future innovators build success. The Blue Ocean Student Pitch Competition is yet another example of this.” 

The intentional push of content marketing and improved SEO on the side of Blue Ocean also helped reach more students than ever before. Beyond the growing participation, this year is unique for students as they navigate the pandemic. Many students are learning from home and have the space to think creatively and embrace meaningful projects beyond the traditional classroom setting. The virtual competition works in tandem with the online schooling millions of youths are experiencing worldwide. 

Reaching students online was, therefore, much easier with most learning happening virtually. Not only did students have access to a mini-course, but a small number of schools were also able to facilitate Zoom sessions with Ted Dacko, to review their pitches and learn more about Blue Ocean Strategy. When talking to students, Dacko was able to help them grasp entrepreneurial concepts more tangibly. “At the core we wanted students to know that entrepreneurship is not just about selling product features, but about communicating why their value proposition is important to buyers.” These invaluable lessons provide students with early exposure to the often-daunting entrepreneurial world. 

In addition to the new wave of participants, this year introduces two new categories to the competition — Best Healthcare Pitch and Best Pitch in the Medal Industry. With a steady rise since 2018, the competition shows no signs of slowing down in its quest to empower young entrepreneurs. This year’s competition winners will be crowned on April 19, 2021. To stay up to date about the winners visit blueoceancompetition.org

Ann Arbor SPARK is a sponsor of the Blue Ocean Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition. In 2020, SPARK awarded Ted Dacko with the Volunteer Leader of the Year Award. SPARK previously hosted Blue Ocean Strategy authorRenée Mauborgne as she led an insightful discussion about the book’s concepts.