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Competition: University students get $200K, chance to start clean energy company

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First Look West (FLoW), the largest clean energy business plan competition in the western United States, is looking for entrepreneurial-minded university students from all disciplines to apply to win $200,000 in prize money by submitting their idea for a clean energy business.

Led by Caltech, FLoW is a consortium of universities that is running the western region of the Department of Energy's $2 million National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. FLoW offers $200,000 in prizes and more importantly, experienced mentors, legal start-up packages and the opportunity to pitch to investors ready to take action and work with these teams. Winning teams from six regions across the country also get the chance to participate in the National Competition in Washington D.C., June 2012.

The effort is part of Startup America, the Obama Administration's campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. The FLoW founding consortium of Caltech, USC, and UCLA has already grown to a working relationship with organizations and faculty from UCSD, UC Davis, UCSB, Berkeley, Stanford, Portland State University, the University of Nevada, Washington State University and Seattle University.

FLoW is connected to an extensive network of investment groups, many of them looking for the next opportunity in clean energy. Through FLoW, renowned VC firms Mohr Davidow, Khosla Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, CalCEF, CMEA and the Angeleno group as well as corporate venture arms such as Chevron Ventures have agreed to act as judges and advisors to these young inventors. "We believe that engaging investors and other business experts in FLoW will be vitally important to sustaining student efforts in creating new ventures long after the competition is over," says Neil Fromer, Executive Director of Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute, the campus organization driving the competition.

FLoW's student teams will also get the chance to participate in top entrepreneurial training programs in clean energy. Finalists will be automatically accepted into the Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy (GTEA), offered by the Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, at UC Davis, June 25 – 27, 2012. The national and international Cleantech Open (CTO) will accept the top three FLoW competition finalists as semifinalists in the 2012 Cleantech Open competition including attendance in the Cleantech Open National Academy-West Coast.

"FLoW will provide students with the lifelong skills needed to start new ventures now or in the future and transform promising energy technologies into innovative energy products that will create jobs, boost American competitiveness, and strengthen the economy," said Krisztina "Z" Holly, Vice Provost for Innovation at USC, as well as a member of the National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

FLoW is also reaching out to other universities in seven states and two territories, California, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, American Samoa and Guam, and seeking their best young entrepreneurs to participate and submit applications by February 28, 2012. The best-in-class teams will then qualify for the final judging round for the Western Region, held at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California on April 30 and May 1, 2012.

For students wishing to apply, applications can be submitted online at the FLoW website.

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