Cal Lutheran startup fair goes global

2020 virtual format brought votes from 40 countries

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Cal Lutheran MBA student Lour Vosilla Mitchell pitches StudioKit, which took top honors in last year’s New Venture Fair.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — April 20, 2021) California Lutheran University’s New Venture Fair, in which students are competing for $15,000 in prizes, is open to global viewing and voting for eight days before an Awards Presentation on April 29.

The public can view the projects and cast their votes for People’s Choice Awards from April 21 through April 28. The live Awards Presentation will begin at 9 a.m. PDT Thursday, April 29, on Zoom. 

The need to move the annual event to a virtual format last year because of the pandemic attracted a much wider audience. Nearly 9,000 votes came in from 36 states, 40 countries and six continents. 

The event will be virtual again this year, with 32 teams from Cal Lutheran, including many from the Executive MBA program in Austria, and 10 from Oaks Christian School posting their innovative projects online. Each team has a website featuring information on its startup idea and a video of its pitch.  

“We were so thrilled with the worldwide viewing and judging last year, and we hope to repeat that this year,” said Mike Panesis, executive director of Cal Lutheran’s Steven Dorfman Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We plan to return to holding the fair in person next year, but we will keep the online component so students can share their work with their friends, family and the community throughout the world.”

The center hosts the fair to provide undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines with the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills, experience the challenge of launching a startup business, and connect with mentors and investors.

The Cal Lutheran students participating in the fair represent the university’s brightest and most motivated aspiring entrepreneurs. They have been working on their ideas for several months — brainstorming ideas for new businesses, forming teams, identifying and interviewing potential customers, and developing product ideas with guidance from faculty members and professionals. Many participated in Cal Lutheran’s Hub101 IdeaToDo program. 

The fair’s team of judges will evaluate the startups’ value to consumers, business model, quality of presentation and potential for success in order to present awards for best minimum viable product. Awards also will be presented for best executive summary, brochure, startup for good and virtual booths. People’s Choice awards for best startup idea will be presented. Cash awards range from $500 to $2,500.

Public participation in the fair requires free registration. Please go to For more information, contact Kristin Bell at or 805-493-3747.