Highland Gigabit Challenge names semifinalists

The Highland Entrepreneurship Program has named 12 semifinalists in its first Gigabit Challenge business plan competition.

The competition is specific to tech-oriented startups and is awarding more than $50,000 in cash prizes and in-kind professional services.

The Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is Highland’s event partner along with nearly 20 additional sponsors from across the region.

Semifinalists are: CareProtocol, Chess Research Labs, EatKidFriendly.com, Ignition Machine, Leaf, Vet Check-In, OneLegacy.com, Pasilobus, Pet Cooler Carrier, Seated App, Squarefruit Labs and Unlimited Technologies.

These startups represent a wide range of industries, including information technologies, healthcare and manufacturing.

Semifinalists must submit a condensed business plan by Monday, Nov. 24, for evaluation and the opportunity to move into the final “live pitch” round Friday, Dec.12.

The first-place winner will be awarded $15,000 cash along with an offer of office space, high-speed Internet service and mentoring support via Highland’s Entrepreneurship Program. Second and third place finishers will also receive cash and in-kind services. All three startups will be required to locate operations in Highland as part of the program.

“We want to attract high-growth startups able to use and promote our city’s state-of-the-art gigabit Internet service,” said Lisa Peck, Highland spokeswoman. “Highland recognizes the long-term value of the gigabit service as a tool to spur growth and innovation.”

Patrick McKeehan, director of the Illinois Metro East SBDC, says the St. Louis region is rapidly gaining the reputation as a growing area for innovation. “The environment throughout the metropolitan area, including Highland, is becoming more favorable to new business ventures,” McKeehan said. “Innovative startups are able to take advantage of this growing level of support from both the public sector and corporate community.”

The Highland Gigabit Challenge is sponsored by the City of Highland, Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center, Singleton Law Firm PC, St. Louis Regional Chamber, Highland Chamber of Commerce, Corning, Foppe Visual Communications, Scheffel Boyle, Terra Properties, Bluebird Network, TheBANK of Edwardsville, RETKO Group, Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, Oates Associates, National Telco Television Consortium, First Clover Leaf Bank, the Rotary Club of Highland, Highland Communication Services, Highland Entrepreneurship Program and Moran Economic Development.

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