Top college athletes can imagine themselves carrying off a national championship trophy, for MBAs there’s The Innovation Challenge®.

These teams aren’t competing in stadiums with thousands of cheering fans. They’re developing innovative business ideas to give small business owners with limited IT budgets the tools available to the pros. AT&T is ready to tap into that pool of creativity as a sponsor of The Innovation Challenge®, an annual contest pitting MBA teams in a battle of innovation and creative thinking.

“The Innovation Challengebrings together a very deep talent pool of next-generation business leaders,” said Anil Rathi, CEO & Founder of Skild, the contest organizer. “Key to its success is the participation of companies like AT&T, which helps create an experience that uniquely addresses real-world business and social innovation challenges.”

This year’s five finalists in AT&T’s challenge group feature teams representing Virginia Commonwealth University – University Brandcenter, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, the Haas School of Business at University of California at Berkeley, Harvard Business School and the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India.

Participating teams researched, brainstormed and presented a detailed plan for addressing questions on emerging technology and how AT&T can better connect its cloud-hosting services with mobility applications and services to meet the needs of small businesses. After several rounds of judging by AT&T and industry experts, the finalists were selected from among the 60 MBA teams competing.

The winning team will be announced in early December and awarded prizes that include cash and exposure to some of AT&T’s top executives and key innovators. AT&T’s involvement in The Innovation Challenge is spearheaded through its own internal crowdsourcing and collaboration program called . As part of this, AT&T has reached outside its internal parameters to tap the minds of top students.

“AT&T’s TIP program and The Innovation Challenge are similar in that they both bring together great minds to collaborate and elevate the best ideas to the top,” said Sam Zellner, AT&T’s Executive Director of Innovation. “Our role with the Challenge is demonstrative of how we can collaborate outside traditional lines by connecting with tomorrow’s leaders to help shape the future of technology.”

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