Colligan Challenge connects design, entrepreneurship

The global mobile industry has grown exponentially over the last few years—over 50% of mobile users are now on smartphones and is expected to reach 90% in the next few years. Despite the brisk growth in mobile device sales, says Ed Colligan, founder and CEO of mobile companies Palm and Handbrake, there is still a shortage of user interface experts in the mobile technology industry.

“It’s very hard to find great user interface designers,” he explains. “Designing a user interface is a special combination of both art and science.”

That’s why Colligan is sponsoring the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge with the University of Oregon’s Office of the Vice President for Research & Innovation (OVPRI).

I thought we could take a real strength of the university, which is arts, architecture, graphic design, and bring some of those capabilities to bear in the tech business by creating a graphical user interface design challenge,” said Colligan. “Hopefully the end result of this challenge will be a new area of expertise at the UO, or maybe even a new company.”

Now in its second year, this year’s challenge attracted 38 students from 13 majors and all academic levels across campus. Participants met for the first time in October. Throughout the three-month challenge they received coaching sessions from faculty and learn about user interface design, wire framing, decision psychology, and concept pitching.

This was also the first year that students had the opportunity to collaborate with RAIN Eugene, the local node of the Oregon Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network. Teams received mentorship from experienced local entrepreneurs who helped them guide them develop their business model, assess their future market, and prepare their final pitches.

At 4:00 pm on Thursday, January 15, 2015 the final four student teams will meet in the Ballroom of the Ford Alumni Center to participate in the last round of the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge. During the event—affectionately known as the “Duck Tank,” a play on the name of the popular ABC show Shark Tank—each team will have the opportunity to make their final, 8-minute pitch to a panel of industry experts.

The winning teams will share a $15,000 award they can use to seed the future development of their companies. RAIN Eugene will also continue to make resources available to them—everything from mentorship, participation in the accelerator program, and the opportunity to receive additional seed funding through the RAINMaker program.

“We want to help the teams answer ‘what do we do next’ when they complete the Colligan Challenge,” said Pat Jones, Associate Vice President for Research & Innovation. “Our partnership with RAIN Eugene will help the teams stay connected to the entrepreneurial community and find the resources they need to continue developing their ideas.”