A Roundup of Summer Startup Competitions, from Healthcare IT to Dark Matter

5/27/11Follow @wroush

You weren’t actually thinking about taking Memorial Day Weekend off, were you? If you’re an entrepreneur and you want some (relatively) easy money or fame, it’s time to get moving on your entry for one of the many startup-oriented competitions underway this summer. Here are just four that have hit my inbox this week.

Morgenthaler Ventures in Menlo Park, CA, is organizing its second annual “Health IT Startup Showcase.” It’s a search for 10 outstanding startups seeking seed or Series A funding for technology ideas that could improve the quality or cost-effectiveness of healthcare delivery. The finalists will be paired with investors and other startup founders to help them prepare for presentations to an audience of VCs, angels, and entrepreneurs at Morgenthaler’s DC to VC Summit in Mountain View, CA, on September 22. Two categories of startups are eligible: those under two years old with less than $500,000 in funding, and those under three years old with less than $1.5 million in funding. Applications are due August 9; the details are available in this PDF at Morgenthaler’s website.

—Mountain View, CA-based Evernote, maker of a cross-platform system for storing digital notes of all kinds, has organized its first-ever Developer Competition. Aimed to spur the creation of more apps for the “Evernote Trunk” (the company’s third-party app ecosystem), the competition carries $100,000 in prizes, including a $50,000 grand prize, six $5,000 finalist prizes, a $10,000 student prize, and a $10,000 “wildcard prize.” The winners will be showcased at the company’s Evernote Trunk Conference on August 18. The submission deadline is July 15; Evernote published all the details in a May 23 blog post.

—The Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, MO, announced the Startup Open this week. The competition is designed to identify the 50 most promising startups around the world. Any company that has had a “startup moment” since November 22, 2010 is eligible—meaning “any action related to launching a new business, such as incorporating a company; officially opening the doors for business; completing a first sale; or securing outside funding,” according to the foundation. Applications are due September 15. The 50 finalists will be announced on October 15, and those companies will compete for prizes during the foundations’ Global Entrepreneurship Week event in mid-November. Last year’s grand prize winner, Resolute Marine Energy founder Olivier Cebiero, received a trip to Richard Branson’s private island.

—This one’s far out—literally. Kaggle, a Melbourne, Australia-based Web startup that crowdsources scientific data analysis through online competitions, has announced a competition for new computer algorithms that could help to measure the distribution of dark matter in the universe by gauging the apparent ellipticity of images of distant galaxies. The competition is being sponsored by NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Royal Astronomical Society, and the winner will be invited to present his or her solution at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The entry deadline is August 18. (Working with the Heritage Provider Network, Kaggle is also running a longer-term “Heritage Health Prize Competition” aimed at eliciting an algorithm that can predict, based solely on insurance claims data, which patients will be admitted to hospitals. You’ve got until April 3, 2013 to enter that one.)

—This one isn’t an organized competition, but it’s great for mobile game startups: San Francisco-based TinyCo, which makes games such as Tiny Zoo and Tiny Chef and is backed by venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, said this week that it has set up a $5 million “TinyFund” to help developers get iOS and Android games to market. TinyCo said it will provide selected teams with up to $500,000 in funding, along with marketing, development, and business support.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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