Student innovation competition kicks off on Thursday

Will Wright | Assistant News Editor

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The UK Venture Challenge Kickoff on Thursday is the first step in a contest where students work against each other to create the best business plan or idea.

UK graduate Matt Dieruf won the business concept competition for UK Venture last year by developing an idea for a screw that makes vehicle maintenance more efficient.

Dieruf’s job while he was in the Air Force involved working with these screws, and he said he always thought, “There has to be another way.”

This idea was successful because it is involved in so many different parts of the vehicle maintenance process, Dieruf said.

“It’s practical,” he said. “It’s life experience that leads to innovation.”

Chris Lee, president of Big Blue Starters, says his group helps contestants of UK Venture develop their ideas and innovations.

“We want to help these students and allow them to unpack what they’ve heard from the presenters,” Lee said. “And if they’re interested, help them to find the path toward Venture Challenge.”

Navigating the uncertainty of entrepreneurship is one of the most difficult parts of the contest, Lee said.

Building connections through Venture with people already in the workforce allows students to transform their ideas into realities, Dieruf said.

“If your idea is well thought out, and you identify a market opportunity to serve, people will pay attention,” Dieruf said. “The people who come and participate are already in the innovation field. Some of them do it because they love it and they want to nurture and sponsor growth in people more than anything.”

Alan Stein, owner of the Lexington Legends and founder, president and CEO of the SteinGroup, LLC consulting and investment company, will speak to the students at the Venture Kickoff.

Dieruf believes that, through Venture, students can have a larger impact on the world than they may realize.

“I feel like the students greatly underestimate their potential,” Dieruf said. “We see a problem, we identify the solution. They possess that ability.”