Chicago incubator hopes to SPARK startups
Think you can form a technology company from scratch in just a week? Thatâ€™s the idea behind SPARK, a new incubator program launched by a group of Chicago-area entrepreneurs.
The program is aimed at seeding viable ideas for Web-based and mobile applications during an upcoming startup competition that runs from July 22 to 27 in the Windy City.
â€śSPARK is about doing, not talking,â€ť said 29-year-old Maliha Mustafa, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and SPARK co-founder. â€śWhat weâ€™d like to do is actually execute.â€ť
Toward that end, Mustafa and her fellow co-founders, including Seth Kravitz â€“ who started a Web design company from his dorm room at Ohio State that later grew into a 55-person operation â€“ are winnowing down contest applications to 60 participants.
During the six-day competition, the chosen candidates will form teams, decide on business models, build working prototypes and present their elevator pitches in front of angel investors and venture capitalists.
â€śWhat makes an organization, what makes a startup successful? We want to give them every fighting chance,â€ť said Mustafa, noting there is no entry fee.
In the end, three final teams will face off, with the winner receiving a cash grant of $10,000 or more. The fledgling companies will also receive donated mentorship services in marketing and development.
Open to the public, the SPARK Chicago competition is designed to inspire other would-be entrepreneurs to get their game face on, Mustafa said.
â€śThis may be relevant to that friend of yours that has the potential to be the next Groupon, but just needs a gentle push and the right support,â€ť she added.