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Aspiring West Virginia collegiate entrepreneurs build innovative mindsets, ideas through WVU LaunchLab’s first annual ZinnStarter Pitch Competition

Tanner Yuhase |

Seven aspiring collegiate entrepreneurs from three West Virginia colleges and universities equipped with innovative ideas participated in the first annual ZinnStarter Pitch Competition, held virtually on October 28th, 2020 hosted by the West Virginia University LaunchLab.

Supported by Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn, the ZinnStarter Pitch Competition gave participants an opportunity to win $5,000 in cash prizes to build their ideas into the next groundbreaking product or business – and a network of support and resources to guide them on their journeys.

The competition was structured to bolster student experiential learning in entrepreneurship through idea pitching. Contestants were given five minutes to pitch their idea or product and a five minute question-and-answer session with the judges, comprised of business leaders and coaches from around the state. Ideas ranged from universal pet record databases to protection technology to preventing assault incidents. 

The competition included contestants from Marshall University, University of Charleston, and West Virginia University who competed for prizes and resources to propel their ideas to the next stage of growth.  

Competition winners:

  • Third place ($1000 prize): The team of Austin Davis, Anne Byer and Emily Thomas is from University of Charleston. Their business idea, "Second Chance", is a program to use a variety of common extremities to give active control back to people with quadriplegia & paraplegia. 

Carrie White, LaunchLab executive director, said the ZinnStarter competition is one of many ways that the LaunchLab helps students foster entrepreneurial mindsets and grow into innovators.

 “The LaunchLab is designed to be a learning lab and applied innovation center where students can access education, coaching, advising and creating products and services,” said White. “Through the generosity of Ray Zinn, we’re able to give students around the state the opportunity to build the tenacity and creativity that they need through pitching ideas and gaining constructive feedback to prepare them ready for the rigors of entrepreneurship on the other side of their degrees.”

For more information on the LaunchLab, their services and future pitch competitions, please visit 

About Zinnstarter

ZinnStarter is a multi-campus program to fund student entrepreneurs in the pre-launch phase. Initiated at Virginia Tech, ZinnStarter is growing and is housed at colleges nationally, including San Jose State, BYU, Utah Valley University and West Virginia University. For more information about ZinnStarter, please visit:

About the West Virginia University LaunchLab 

The West Virginia University LaunchLab applied innovation center provides all WVU students and faculty across disciplines with a community-based center offering hands-on idea development support, education, mentorship, prototyping facilities, resources, and connections to innovative entrepreneurs across West Virginia. It is fueled by the John Chambers College of Business and Economics.