The press release came out on April 1, but it’s no joke: the New Ventures BC competition has raised the stakes thanks to a new title sponsor, the British Columbia Innovation Council. BCIC’s Proof-of-Concept awards add $200,000 in award money, bringing the total to $335,000. Over four rounds and seven months, early stage entrepreneurs will compete by developing their business idea for an innovative technology service or product. The prize breakdown is as follows: BC Hydro First Prize: $60,000 in cash and services PLUS BC Innovation Council Proof-of-Concept Award: $100,000 Enbridge Second prize: $38,000 in cash and services PLUS BC Innovation Council Proof-of-Concept Award: $50,000 Third prize: $17,000 in cash and services PLUS BC Innovation Council Proof-of-Concept Award: $50,000 BC Hydro Sustainability Prize: $20,000 cash There is still time to enter the competition; the deadline is April 23, 2008. Any BC resident who hasn’t received more than $500k in outside funding for their idea is eligible. You can either register online or call 604-725-5740. The seminar series starts tonight and is open to both contest competitors and the public. It takes place at 6:30pm at the SFU Segal Graduate School of Business, 500 Granville Street in Vancouver. There will also be a live online video stream viewable to anyone. Following seminars will happen weekly, each Wednesday evening.