Pitch Now: Intel Awarding Young Entrepreneurs With $100K For Whizbang Business Ideas

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Intel knows a thing or two about technology and innovation. Hey, that’s why they hired Will.i.am as “director of creative innovation”. (Wink.) Really, in the same way that it’s catalyzed change in the computing industry (and helped bring modern microprocessing to life), in December Intel launched a platform designed to give young entrepreneurs the opportunity to bring their own innovative ideas to life.

Thus, the company launched “Intel Innovators” to be two things: First, it’s a platform built on top of Intel’s Facebook community that allows young entrepreneurs (specifically, 18 to 24-year-olds) in the U.S. to share their business ideas, grow a fanbase, and receive realtime feedback. Second, it’s essentially a pop-up accelerator — a program that offers $100,000 each month to the best ideas to come out of its Facebook community.

Finalists each month receive some cool Intel schwag (like Ultrabooks, etc.), and winners get Venture Lab training from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Not bad.

The program began taking submissions in November, launched its platform on December 1st, and Intel plans to run the program for three months, with rounds of judging and prizes at the end of each month. (The deadline for submitting ideas for the third round is January 16.) If Intel Innovators gets enough traction, it will likely be rolled out internationally later this year. And thus far the activity on its platform has been impressive, as the team told us that they’ve received hundreds of “high-quality” ideas for each round and have seen “hundreds of thousands of visits” to its Facebook platform over the last month.

So how does it works? Basically, young entrepreneurs can head over to the Facebook app, where they can submit their ideas for startups. Once approved, they enter the big pool. A selection committee (made up of professors, executives, and entrepreneurs) selects the 20 best ideas. Fans and entrepreneurs are given social capital (points) that they can invest in their favorite ideas.

The five that receive the most capital move onto the final round, where they do a live pitch to a panel of four judges (Chief Financial Officer of betaworks Joshua D. Auerbach, Managing Director Intel Capital’s Consumer Internet Sector Mike Buckley, SV Angel’s Topher Conway, and Collaborative Fund’s Craig Shapiro), who award their favorite idea with $50K. The top fan then gets to give the other $50K to their favorite finalist.

Interested in what kind of ideas the crowd favors? December’s winners included Alex Adelman, a 22 year-old from North Carolina for “Cosmic Cart”, a product tagging system that allows users to buy merchandise from any video online. And the second winner (chosen by the panelists) was 24-year-old Virgil Hare from Detroit for LoginWill, a social networking website where people can designate beneficiaries to receive all of their online login information in the event that they pass away. (More here.)

It’s a great program, although it does seem like they didn’t have to include the 18 to 24 age restriction. What about the rest of us? According to Intel, it’s illegal to award financial prizes to people under 18, so there’s that, and, really, they want to tap into tap into college-aged entrepreneurs — to help the young Mark Zuckerbergs of the world take a step forward. (And, hey, Mike would probably agree with the age cap, too.)

While I might balk at that suggestion, it’s hard to argue against giving young entrepreneurs a resource to bounce their ideas off each other and cash to jumpstart their business. Intel has always claimed it’s all about fueling innovation, and programs like this, its Global Challenge at UC Berkeley, and the AppUp Fund show Intel wants to put its money where its mouth is.

Entrepreneurs and their startups are, really, the engine of job creation. In the U.S., companies less than five years old created 44 million jobs over the last three decades and, over that time, accounted for all net new jobs created in the U.S. — this according to the White House.

What’s more, for a stagnant economy, keeping technology and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is a must, and Intel is doing its part to help create them, and keep them here.

But now I want to see them turn Intel Innovators into a full-blown accelerator. The more, the better.

And for the young entrepreneurs reading, now is the time to submit your idea for a shot at $100K, as the program is currently accepting submissions for the next round — and is doing so until 12 p.m. EST on January 16. Check it out here.