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First-Ever Winner of Denver Startup Week Challenge

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

Justin Beach

Project X-ITE awards local company more than $25,000 in prizes

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What started with 159 teams, ended with just one standing.

Last week DU’s Project X-ITE hosted the first-ever Denver Startup Week Challenge. It was an opportunity for small businesses and startups to pitch some of the best new ideas for a chance at winning the largest community-built prize in Denver Startup Week history.

“We like to see the entrepreneurs get up on stage and speak to the community as a whole and collaborate, not only with community members, but also with the judges,” said Will Hurd of Project X-ITE. “It’s great experience for them as entrepreneurs to get to know each other and collaborate within the community of entrepreneurs.”


Project X-ITE is a cross-disciplinary initiative focused on entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. “We want to be involved not only in the DU community — the students and faculty and the alumni — but also the Denver community as a whole and really create this ecosystem of collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship,” Hurd said.

A majority of the companies participating in this challenge were already up and running and generating revenue. Some of the 159 innovative ideas were created by DU alums. Project X-ITE aims to help these alums, but also anyone in the community with a unique idea.

“We want to own innovation in Denver,” said Stephen Miller, senior director of Project X-ITE and senior director of entrepreneurship in the Daniels Çollege of Business. “Project X-ITE welcomes both student and faculty innovation, but also innovation from the community. We welcome people, even non-alums, to come in and see how the University and the resources of our faculty and our students can potentially help them move their companies forward.”

Twenty companies were selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges during Denver Startup Week. At stake was a prize package valued at more than $25,000 in cash, memberships and legal services.

Soccer Sidekick was selected as the winner during the grand finale. The company designed a soccer training ball that allows users to recreate game-like situations by themselves.

“Winning this competition is going to propel us to a new level of growth,” Santiago Velez, co-founder of Sidekick Holdings, said. “Having people guide us in the right direction, give us feedback and having subscriptions to all those resources, it’s really important and invaluable to us to reach that next level of growth.”

Since February, Soccer Sidekick has sold more than 4,700 balls. The bulk of sales have come during weekend soccer tournaments. Velez hopes that, with the help and exposure provided by Project X-ITE and DU, Soccer Sidekick will be able to expand its online sales.

“It’s incredible that they are sparking the entrepreneurial scene in downtown Denver and reaching beyond just focusing on their school,” Velez said. “I think that shows their value, to not just Denver, but all of Colorado, and it’s awesome to see a university being a leader in that scene.”

With the launch of Project X-ITE last spring, DU hopes to have an enduring impact on innovation and entrepreneurship in the Denver community.

“What’s great is seeing companies in this early stage and then a few years from now seeing them knock it out of the park,” Miller said. “Their success is our success as a community, and it’s so gratifying being a part of that.”