Student Startups Compete for Funding and Prizes: Everyone Wins!

TEC News Stories

4/3/2012 2:54:00 PM

Story Highlights

By Lyndsey Taylor

Urbana, Ill—March 31, 2012

The 12th annual Cozad New Venture Competition proved to be a fierce battle this weekend, as 20 student teams presented their ventures to an esteemed judging panel.

The Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) in partnership with the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership hosted the Cozad semi-finals on Friday, where the 20 teams gave timed presentations followed by heated and challenging questions from judges. Twenty teams dwindled down to nine for Saturday’s finals.

Twelve prizes were given out to the student teams, including Most Fundable Venture for first place, a $15,000 prize awarded to Serionix, a startup that removes chemicals from air and water “up to 30-50 times faster than conventional technologies.”

HigherMed, a startup that manufactures user-friendly prescription pill bottle caps primarily for persons with decreased dexterity, took second place, garnering the startup $5,000.

StudyCloud took home third place for $2,000 for their venture a “pioneering” online education platform and social web technology.

Managing Broker and Vice President of Operations at Fox Development Corporation, Masha Trenhaile served as one of the judges this year.  Trenhaile said she and the panel were looking for “well-rounded” individuals with good “social and economic ideas” for this year’s winners. She said having a good product and being able to present it well is of equal importance.

Many of the student teams were first-timers in the venture competition. Jake How, team member of EscaWheel and one of three winners of the EnterpriseWorks incubator prize, said Cozad is “really great for exploring ideas” and “to just try something.”

EscaWheel seeks to provide wheelchair users with an affordable and safe way to go up and down stairs.

Stephanie Larson, Program and Marketing Coordinator for TEC said, “This year’s competition was outstanding in so many ways – we had a record number of participants, an impressive lineup of judges and sponsors and alumni involvement, and an overall sense of camaraderie and excitement throughout the whole competition.”

Tian Lan of GlucoSentient, a company that manufactures blood glucose meters for asthma/COPD patients said Cozad has been “very inspiring” and has found the experience enlightening. GluoSentinent received the $10,000 prize for Burrill Best Digital Healthcare Application.

Navid Aghasadeghi of OceanComm said Cozad has been both a “learning and computing” experience for him. “It (Cozad) pushed us in the right direction in ways that we wouldn’t have been pushed otherwise. I think in that sense it was really nice. It laid out the steps we need to take in order to start a business,” he said.

Thomas Riedl of OceanComm said the next step for their business is to have a prototype ready in the next few months, as well as to further their proposals with the U.S. Navy. OceanComm was the recipient of the iStart prize through EnterpriseWorks and services from Singleton Law Firm.

Jim Langer and Weihua Zheng of Serionix said this is their second year competing in Cozad. “We enjoyed the experience last year and was actually the first step we took toward starting a company,” Langer said.

“One of the things I learned and one of the most valuable things about Cozad is forcing me as an engineer to go outside of my comfort zone in terms of really making a strong effort to articulate value,” he added.

Communicating a business idea to an audience that “has no technical background essentially” has proven to be a worthwhile challenge for Serionix, he said.

Transplants Without Donors, a startup that creates artificial organs from patient’s stem cells and biomaterials, won Best Social Venture for $7,500.

Eleni Antoniadou of Transplants Without Donors said it’s “really exciting” to be selected as a finalist and “really encouraging to have validation.” Antoniadou and Michael McCarty participated in the Idea to Product competition in October 2011 and March 2012. Since then, Antoniadou and McCarty have received consulting advice from Early-Stage BioTech Executive Harlee Sorkin to better learn how to present their business ideas.

The Cozad New Venture Competition was  sponsored this year by Adobe, Adalyze Technologies, Burrill & Company, Cozad Asset Management, Inc., Fox Development Corporation (FDC), IllinoisVENTURES, Lando & Anastasi, LLP, Metropolitan Capital Bancorp, Inc., National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), OTCR Consulting, Singleton Law Firm, P.C., State Farm, University of Illinois Research Park, University of Illinois WebstoreVenture Investors, and TEC’s Corporate Partners: Founders Fund, Groupon, AMD and IllinoisVENTURES.

For a full list of Cozad 2012 winners, please visit

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