Press Release/Contact Us

Student Startup Teams from 13 New Jersey Universities Compete To Be Named Most Innovative New Venture

The seventh annual UPitchNJ, an innovative statewide collegiate business model competition showcasing the Garden State’s top young talent, will be held Friday, April 29, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. in a livestreamed, virtual format together with Nokia Bell Labs. New Jersey’s college students, faculty, alumni, friends, and the public are all invited to watch virtually. To watch the competition, visit the UPitchNJ Facebook page at 

(On social media: #UPitchNJ)

The competition is organized by the UPitchNJ consortium, which represents the entrepreneurship education programs at New Jersey’s four-year colleges and universities. Thirteen universities are participating in the seventh annual competition: Drew UniversityFairleigh Dickinson University, Kean University, Montclair State University, New Jersey City University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rider University, Rowan University, Rutgers University/Camden, Rutgers University/Newark/New Brunswick, and Seton Hall University.

Select student teams will pitch their startups in a virtual format to a panel of judges as they compete for cash prizes. The judges are: Thierry Klein, President Bell Labs Solutions Research, Andrea Blanco-Redondo, Head of Silicon Photonics Department, Dragan Samardzija, Lab Leader, Platform & ASIC Research, Ken Budka, Senior Partner, Bell Labs Consulting and Itai Segall, Department Head, Software & Data Systems Research.

Student teams will be judged on the innovation and originality of their startup idea and the quality of their oral presentations. The contest judges will also be looking for creative and innovative thinking about markets, products and services. The student teams will be evaluated on their perceived ability to execute the idea and turn it into a viable, profitable business and/or venture with significant social value. 

To help the undergraduate entrepreneurship students prepare for the competition, Nokia Bell Labs paired many of the student startup teams with a Nokia Bell Labs senior executive to serve as a mentor to the team. 

Thierry E. Klein, President of Bell Labs Solutions Research, Nokia Bell Labs, said: “Innovation has always been the heart and soul of Nokia Bell Labs. Our inventions have profoundly changed the way that we live, work and communicate in our daily lives. Nokia Bell Labs continues to drive innovation, technology and business leadership and collaborate with a rich ecosystem of partners to impact new and existing value chains. We are very proud to support the UPitchNJ competition and the next generation of innovators and leaders. It is the hard work, creativity and dedication of these teams that will make the world a better place.”

 “We are extremely grateful to Nokia Bell Labs for this extraordinary and innovative collaboration,” said Susan Scherreik, chair of the UPitchNJ consortium and founding director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Seton Hall University. “UPitchNJ showcases the best and brightest young entrepreneurs from all over the Garden State. Thanks to the coaching the teams are receiving from New Jersey’s top corporate research scientists at Nokia Bell Labs, our collegiate entrepreneurship students can take their startups to new heights.”

The joint effort between Nokia Bell Labs and the entrepreneurship programs at the state’s colleges and universities will benefit New Jersey in myriad ways. When companies in New Jersey seek to expand or move to the Garden State, a prime consideration is New Jersey’s highly educated workforce, especially employees who are innovative self-starters. With assistance from Nokia Bell Labs, these student entrepreneurs will be even better prepared for their careers, Scherreik noted.

UPitchNJ has been held together with Nokia Bell Labs for the past three years. The format has been virtual during this time because of pandemic concerns. 

In prior years, UPitchNJ was held at one of the participating university’s campuses. Past hosts include Princeton University, Rutgers University, Montclair State University and Seton Hall University.

The competition aims to highlight the ingenuity and creativity of today’s college entrepreneurs, who are increasingly launching businesses from their dorm rooms.  As entrepreneurship educators in New Jersey, we want to provide our entrepreneurial students with a networking forum with other students, mentors and potential investors.

We believe this competition will help brand New Jersey – home to Nokia Bell Labs and Thomas Edison – as the innovative state that it is, plus encourage young entrepreneurs to develop their businesses here, leading to economic growth and job creation.


Student teams will compete for the following prizes:

1st Place: $2,000

2nd Place: $1,500

3rd Place: $1,000

Best Early-Stage Startup: $1,500

Audience Choice Award: $500.  


For more information, visit the contest website:

The event is free and open to the public. To watch the competition, visit the UPitchNJ Facebook page at 

Press Contact: Susan Scherreik, chair, UPitchNJ, and director, Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Seton Hall University, at

(On social media: #UPitchNJ)