Innovate Mississippi announces Statewide Student Pitch Competition

Published 3:00 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Innovate Mississippi has announced the inaugural NextUp Statewide Student Pitch Competition, which will be held April 13-14, to kick off the Sixth Annual Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum.

Student entrepreneurs from all Mississippi colleges, universities and community colleges are invited to compete in the rapid-fire contest, pitching their pioneering business ideas to a distinguished panel of judges comprised of the state’s top entrepreneurs and investors. Students can compete in categories of competition that include “pre-revenue” and “post-revenue” divisions, as well as technology-based and traditional business ideas.

“This is the first statewide, student-only pitch competition of its kind. We hope to allow Mississippi students to compete and engage with other student entrepreneurs across the different campuses,” said Tasha Bibb, director of entrepreneurial development at Innovate Mississippi. “Our goal is to create a community of student entrepreneurs who band together to share, grow and develop a culture of collaborative student entrepreneurship in Mississippi.”

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The two-day Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum will take place virtually and is sponsored by the Mississippi Development Authority. The forum provides working opportunities for aspiring business owners and thriving entrepreneurs to share practical information about building their businesses.

“MDA is pleased to be a primary sponsor of the student entrepreneurial competition,” said Joe Donovan, director of The Entrepreneur and Innovation Center at MDA. “Mississippi’s future is dependent upon the creativity of our young people. Mississippi’s youth have consistently demonstrated that they can lead in global innovation; they simply need our support.”

Participants will be screened and selected before the event. The student entrepreneurs will then work with a mentor to prepare for the competition. Mentors include angel investors and business professionals who are matched with participants based on their areas of expertise and experience. Judging will be based on a the students’ pre-recorded video pitch and executive summary.

NextUp’s judges will name winners from each division, and winning teams will receive cash prizes. The participants also vie for in-kind professional services from supporting service providers such as attorneys, accountants and web designers to help grow their business.

The NextUp team will announce the student winners virtually during Day Two of the Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum on April 14.

Students interested in competing for cash and in-kind prizes should apply before March 8. Selected participants will be paired with a mentor to help prepare for the competition.

To attend the Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum and hear the pitches, or to apply to pitch in the NextUp contest, contact Tasha Bibb at or 601-960-3610; or visit