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BYU Student Startup Wins Top Prize and $40K at Utah Entrepreneur Challenge

Lassonde Institute

A student startup from Brigham Young University won the $40,000 grand prize in the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge over the weekend.

Sam Stoddard is a student at BYU and the co-founder and CEO of SimpleCitizen, the startup company that took the top prize. He says the idea came from a personal need when he and his wife decided it was time for her to get a green card.

“It’s an on-line, do-it-yourself tool for people who need to file for a green card or other basic immigration forms.”

Stoddard says competing in and winning the challenge is critical to getting the website launched this summer.

“The University of Utah hooked us up with a mentor. He’s the controller at L3 Communications. And he was just fantastic in helping us hone our business pitch,” says Stoddard, “maybe some of the maybe weaker areas in our business model and just get us ready for a fantastic day on Saturday.”

The grand prize was part of more than $100,000 dollars in cash and in-kind prizes awarded. 

The competition is run by students in the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah. Dane Money is the co-chair of the series of competitions that led up to the final on Saturday.

“And all these competitions is helping students go from the ideology or the creation stage all the way to a full business plan,” says Money.

He says judges had to find a winner in a field of more than 200 presenters from colleges and universities around the state. He says products and services touted by contestants included medical devices, skateboard decks and food products.

Bob Nelson is a graduate of the University of Utah with a BA in mass communications. He began his radio career at KUER in 1978 when it was still in Kingsbury Hall. That’s also where he met his wife, Maria Shilaos, in 1981. Bob left KUER for commercial radio where he worked for 25 years, and he is thrilled to be back at KUER. Bob and his family are part of an explorer group, fondly known as The Hordes and Masses, which has been seeking out ghost towns and little-known places in Utah for more than twenty years.
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