Innovator Challenge: Family History Meets the Entrepreneurial World

Developers don’t think that family history is a big tech industry when the reality is it’s actually turning that way.

When I think of genealogy, I think of worn-down old people poring over ancient tomes, hoping to trace their lineage back to biblical times. I think of outdated texts, hard-to-find stories, and little efficiency. The very last thing that comes to mind is technology. As in many instances in my life, I would be wrong.

“Most people think that the idea of history is really analog; pulling out pictures, stuff like that,” Grow Utah’s Justin Bott recently told Beehive Startups. “But the whole industry has boomed into digital records.”

In response to the blossoming union between family history and tech, Grow Utah is partnering together with RootsTech, the world’s largest family history and technology conference, to bring you the Innovator Challenge. Contestants can submit their ideas — via this link — for any new apps, games, or software centered on family history, with $25,000 in cash prizes hanging in the balance. If you have a good idea, don’t hesitate — the deadline for submission is January 15. Go jump on their website, submit the perfect idea, and wait for your life to change.

“Developers don’t think that family history is a big tech industry when the reality is it’s actually turning that way…there’s a huge interest in it,” said Bott, estimating that revenue generated from family history — over two billion dollars in 2014 — will double in the next five years.

The eight entrepreneurs lucky enough to have their ideas selected will present before a panel of judges on February 12 at the Salt Palace Convention Center, with audience vote also being factored into the proceedings. The eight semi-finalists will then be narrowed down to three finalists, with their final pitches being heard on February 14 by a judge panel consisting of some leading names in the Utah tech and business community: Damon Kirchmeier, director of Epic Ventures; John Richards, co-founder of BoomStartup; Amy Rees Anderson, managing partner and founder of REES Capital; Kent Thomas, CEO and founder of Advanced CFO Solutions; and Curt Roberts, Associate Vice President for Commercialization and Regional Development at USU.

Sound like a fun mash-up of Shark Tank and America’s Got Talent? That’s because it is, minus Mark Cuban and the questionable hosting talents of Nick Cannon. In addition to offering competitors the chance at a cash kickback, the Innovator Challenge is an excellent opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas before people who know and understand the startup community.

Again, time is of the essence. Pull out your computer, polish off that technologically-savvy ancestral app you’ve been working on, and go make your forebearers proud. Because what could make your ancestors happier than using them as a springboard to financial gain, professional success, and public notoriety? Nothing, I say. Nothing.

Published 1/14/2015

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