Pandemic Innovation Competition

Silicon Flatirons, while remaining socially distant, continues to catalyze entrepreneurship in the technology community.



The Pandemic Innovation Competition (PIC) invites students to identify novel solutions to reinvent businesses within industries upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PIC helps CU Boulder come together during a time when students are otherwise forced to be physically apart.

The PIC is a three-week interdisciplinary competition spanning October 23 – November 16, 2020, during which participating teams will compete for $10,000 in prize money. CU Boulder, CU Anschutz, and Colorado School of Mines graduate students, as well as undergraduate juniors and seniors, are welcome to participate. Participants in CU’s New Venture Challenge as well as other entrepreneurial offerings are encouraged to join.



Current public health measures limit travel, disrupt social interaction, affect consumer spending, and fundamentally alter our public facing activities. The coronavirus that causes COVID-19, along with the important measures to mitigate its spread, have profoundly affected the economy and employment landscape. Job losses for the United States’ most vulnerable populations are especially alarming. Impacted industries in Colorado include education, health, employment services, tourism, leisure, hospitality, manufacturing, travel/transportation, energy, retail, financial activities, mining, and logging. Long-term impacts from the virus are likely to include systemic shifts in certain sectors of the economy.

The PIC attracts creative minds to reimagine how companies and industries can adapt and thrive through these challenges. This virtual three-week competition, hosted by Silicon Flatirons, calls for innovative ideas to (1) jumpstart an affected sector of the economy, while (2) observing necessary measures to protect public health.

The fundamental objectives of the PIC are to:

  • Provide experiential opportunity for students to work in cross-functional teams at a time when getting across campus to meet people is particularly difficult.
  • Inspire students to think about innovation to benefit the community and state amid the pandemic, operating at the intersection of entrepreneurial tools and the public interest.
  • Showcase students’ work related to innovation at the upcoming Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship Initiative Conference on November 16, 2020.

Eligibility & Team Formation

Graduate students and undergraduate senior and juniors from CU Boulder, CU Anschutz, and Colorado School of Mines are eligible to apply individually to the PIC. Students from other schools are also welcomed to apply; Please email with questions regarding eligibility.

Competition organizers will select a maximum of 64 individuals to participate, forming teams in interdisciplinary groups of 3-4 students as is feasible. Teams will be formed and announced by: Friday, October 23 by 5 pm.


How to Apply

Applicants must submit their current résumé and a brief (500 words or less) statement of intent as to why they would like to participate in the PIC. Applications are due no later than Friday, October 23 by noon.

Click here to submit your application.



On Friday, October 23, two weeks before Competition Night, Silicon Flatirons will send the competition prompt to the teams. The prompt will ask teams to consider, in relation to the project they are developing, a major innovation – spurred by the ongoing pandemic – that would boost economic activity, facilitate access to capital, or modify business practices in a way that responds to pressing public health needs.


Deliverables & Criteria

On Sunday, November 8 by 5:00 p.m., participating teams must submit (1) a one-page written executive summary, and (2) a five-minute pre-recorded presentation. PIC organizers will provide resources in support of these two deliverables. Each team’s executive summary and pitch video must address five key topics:

1. Problem: Identify how the pandemic has upended a specific business or industry.

2. Impact on Industry: In what specific ways has the industry or business, associated with the problem you identify, been impacted by the pandemic? What is the magnitude of the challenge involved?

3. Solution: your team’s proposed innovation and why its salutary impact would meaningfully address the problem.

4. Scale: an explanation of how the solution could scale, including private and public benefits associated with implementation of your proposal.

5. Outreach: proposed messaging for the solution, including advertising or other marketing solutions.


Competition Night

Teams will present their solutions during Competition Night on November 11, 2020, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Presentations will consist of a five-minute pre-recorded video, followed by a five-minute, live Q&A session with the competition judges. Judges will receive a copy of each team’s executive summary via email the day before the competition.

Teams will be judged on their vision, understanding of the problem, quality of research and evidentiary support, and presentation style and professionalism. Bonus points may be awarded for scalability beyond the immediate business plan.



The top three scoring teams from Competition Night will move on to the PIC Showcase, which will be part of the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship Conference on November 16, 2020. Pre-recorded team presentations will be featured as transitions during the conference.


Cash Prizes

Teams will compete for $10,000 in prize money and the exact award breakdown will be announced before the competition. The top scoring teams will earn awards and one team will earn the audience choice award.


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