Cozad New Venture Competition


Want to start a company? Have an idea for a startup? Cozad can help with funding, mentoring and taking your ideas to the next level.

General Information

The Cozad New Venture Competition (CNVC) is designed to encourage students to create new businesses. Teams are invited to create a venture around a topic of their choice.

The competition process offers teams assistance in the form of: mentors to help guide them through the phases of venture creation, workshops to help with idea validation, pitching skills, customer development, and more as well as and courses to enhance their skills and knowledge.

Teams who make it to the finals round of competition will have the opportunity to meet with venture capitalists, early stage investors and successful entrepreneurs who will serve as judges. The judges will determine up to 8 finalist teams that will present their ventures at the finals event. Last year, these teams competed for nearly $160,000 in funding and in-kind prizes.

The co-founding team must consist of at least 30% University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students and the overall team should be at least 50% students (from any institution). Non-students may be members of the co-founding team and participate in planning the venture, but only Illinois students may present the plan and answer questions from the judges in all rounds. There is no limit to the number of teams that can enter the CNVC. Students can serve on multiple teams.

Check out this article about last year's winners.


We have recently made some exciting changes to the competition:

  • Students can compete in two different tracks: teams commercializing their own ideas OR teams commercializing University-funded research.
  • We have corporate sponsors this year focusing prizes on specific areas of innovation:
    • Motorola Solutions: Real time and Media Analytics, Personal & Remote Context, Eyes Free/Heads Up Innovations, Citizen & Community Engagement
    • State Farm: Life Sciences/Health + Wellness , Energy/Power Management, Sensors/Beacons, Internet of Things & Big Data, Financial Tech/Banking
    • AARP Foundation is offering a prize of $5,000 to fund the proposal that, in the opinion of the Foundation, best addresses, with respect to low-income (earning less than $40,000) seniors (50+), one or more of the following needs: (1) the need to access adequate and nutritious food, (2) the need to live safely, independently and comfortably in functional and affordable homes, (3) the need to increase and/or maintain income, (4) the need to enjoy the positive health outcomes of strong and sustaining social bonds. (Submissions relevant to helping low-income 50+ to live safely, independently and comfortably in functional and affordable homes will also be eligible for consideration for the national 2016 AARP Foundation Aging-In-Place $50K Challenge, the winner of which will receive a cash prize of $50,000 to implement their proposed solution. For more information on the Prize, see:

    • Cozad Agriculture Startup Award for $2,500: This prize will be awarded to the team with the best agricultural startup.

  • We are partnering with the College of Business to include workshops on finances, marketing, customer development and more.
  • We will be offering additional mentoring (from alumni and community) for teams throughout the competition.



November 11: 6-8PM SocialFuse & Cozad Kickoff (BIF Atrium) register here to pitch

November 18: 11AM-1PM Optional Workshop: Visas, International Students & Starting a Company with Jenifer Brown (B02CSL) RSVP appreciated here

November 12: 7-8:20PM Optional Workshop: Provisional Patents 101 with Joe Barich (MSEB 119)

January 27: 6-8PM SocialFuse (Krannert)

January 31: DEADLINE TO SUBMIT INTENT TO COMPETE FORM ONLINE (link to submit coming soon)

February: Customer Development video emailed to teams; Udacity- How To Build a Startup: Business Models and Customer Development

February 12: Executive Summary due (submitted online)

Week of Feb 16: Online video posted for Elevator Pitches

February 23: 5-7PM Elevator Pitch Night One (1404 Siebel Center) & (Deadline to submit signed waivers)

February 25: 5-7PM Elevator Pitch Night Two (1310 DCL)

Office hours offered ongoing; email for appointments

There are MANDATORY workshops in March that at least 1 team member must attend before your final materials are due:

  1. Financials; Cost Structure/ Projections & Revenue Streams; How do you make money? When will you break even?
  2. Value Proposition, Customer Relationships, Segments & Channels
  3. Market Validation & Size
  4. Putting the Plan Together 

March: 5-7PM SocialFuse (location TBD)

March: Deadline to submit final materials (online judging occurs)

April: TEC announces finalists via email & website

April: Chicago Mentoring Event (in Chicago)

April: Workshop 12-1PM - Pitch Presentations; (Mandatory Workshop; 1 team member must attend)

mid-April: Deadline to withdraw from competition

Wednesday, April 27th: Networking Event (location TBD)

Thursday, April 28th: Showcase and Finals: Winners announced at awards ceremony (Illini Union)

Description of events:

Kick-Off and Networking Event
The Technology Entrepreneur Center will host a CNVC Kickoff Event that will include an overview of the Competition and a networking event. 

Intellectual Property Clinic Kick-Off
The IP Clinic is a joint effort between the TEC and the University of Illinois College of Law (COL) in which selected participants from the Cozad New Venture Competition have the option of two tracks to participate in: the Patent Track or the Trademark Track. Selected startups can have a patent application drafted for them at no cost if their invention description includes a novel and potentially patentable device, system or method. Or selected startups will be advised on trademark matters and have trademark applications prepared for them.


All undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to compete for the award regardless of college, department, or major. Students must be enrolled full-time at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the academic year in which they care competing. All teams must include at least one full-time student in order to compete.

To view the complete Cozad Rule Book please click here

Intent to Compete Form
Students or Teams interested in applying for Cozad may fill out the Intent to Compete form. We just ask for team member names and contact information along with a one-line pitch of your startup idea.

Executive Summary
An example of the questions asked in the Executive Summary can be found here.

Final Submission Materials
Will be posted during the 2015-2016 school year.

Competition Waiver
All competing students/ teams will need to fill out a Competition Waiver and Rules Acknowledgment form. 


Welcome to the sixteenth annual V. Dale Cozad New Venture Competition (CNVC).  We appreciate your interest in participating in the competition, hosted by the Technology Entrepreneur Center (TEC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois). 

Team members will be asked to sign a statement that they have read and understand the contents of the following Rule Book.  Please read through it carefully, and let the TEC faculty/staff know if you have any questions regarding the contents herein.

2015-16 Rules for the Cozad Competition (updated soon)


We have recently made some exciting changes to the competition:

  • Students can compete in two different tracks: teams commercializing their own ideas OR teams commercializing University-funded research.
  • We are partnering with the College of Business to include workshops on finances, marketing, customer development and more.
  • We will be offering more mentoring (from alumni and community) for teams throughout the competition.
  • We will award a Best Smart Grid or Energy Specific Venture this year!
  • We will award an AARP Foundation Prize for startups geared around solving problems in the Housing, Hunger, Income, or Isolation areas. More information can be found HERE.
  • We will award the Samsung Innovation Prize for startups geared around the Internet of Things, Wearable technologies, or HCI and UI/UX.




Aadeel Akhtar and Patrick Slade

PSYONIC is creating highly advanced prosthetic hands at 10 times less cost to improve the lives of people with amputations worldwide. PSYONIC is co-founded by Aadeel Akhtar, PhD candidate in Neuroscience and Patrick Slade, junior in Mechanical Science & Engineering.


Thomas Reese

FLIPWORD is a device that allows you to passively learn a language while browsing the web. The simple chrome plugin selects key words on a webpage and converts them to the specified language, allowing you to learn that language easily and passively. Flipword is founded by Thomas Reese, a graduate student in Computer Science.


Adam Tilton and Prashant Mehta

RITHMIO is a data analytics software company with an analytics engine based on research originally funded by the US Air Force for missile guidance and satellite navigation applications. Our first product is a gesture recognition system for wearable devices.


Brett Jones, Rajinder Sodhi, and Kevin Karsch

LUMENOUS creates computer vision technology to make projection mapping easier, cheaper, and more powerful in advertising. Lumenous launched by three leading computer science PhD students with expertise and licensing history in computer vision technologies.


Nishana Ismail and Tim Deppen

SERVABO is a self-protection technology company dedicated to reducing the frequency of violent crime. From quickly and discreetly notifying friends of an emergency to providing enhanced safety measures, Servabo is here to keep you safe and secure.


Jim Langer and Welhua Zheng

SERIONIX is an advanced materials company developing high performance filtration technologies to remove toxic or unwanted chemicals from air and water. Serionix purification is differentiated by game-changing performance, well-defined selectivity for targeted chemicals, and potential for low-cost production.


Yi Chen, Aaron Wiener, Dave Tarvin, Rui Cai, and Jingrui Lu

EFFIMAX SOLAR is developing a more efficient Nano texturing technique for more solar cells that they will sell to photovoltaic manufacturing plants. They engineer products for solar manufacturers worldwide. Their patented silicon nanotexturing approach produces the industry's most powerful solar cells, and shortens a traditional 3-hour production process to just 5 minutes. Their aim is to reduce solar manufacturing costs and facilitate affordable solar power at the consumer level.


Zach Tratar, Rob Grzyb, and Jason Febery

CONTENDABLE is a platform for hosting and managing competitions in a unique community-based network which enables businesses to crowd source innovation.


Mathew Gornick and Ryan Matthews

ORANGEQC is a quality control company for the janitorial and food-service market. They work with contractors and offer them a software as a service (SaaS) web application to keep track of the quality of service as well as mobile device software to perform area inspections.


Adam Steele, Will Leinweber, and August Knecht

MERGE.FM is collaborative songwriting and music composition website based on audio tracks. This technology will allow millions of musicians to collaborate on songs together.


Paulius Elvikis, Jingyan Dong, and Deep Kishore

CANSIL developed their first product, the CanderPinch detection system. The CancerPinch diagnoses metastatic cancer cells within in-vitro tissue samples. CanSil leverages nano-fabrication techniques to make micro devices that detect cancer. These devices exploit the difference in mechanical properties between cancerous and healthy cells to make diagnoses faster and more reliably than existing techniques.


Adam Sawyer and Kurt Adair

SA MICROSYSTEMS goal is to provide universities and research laboratories with easy-to-use workstations for analyzing microfluidic devices. Sawyer and Adair predict that their device will be used primarily by individuals developing new microfluid projects related to blood testing and DNA analysis.


Dan Moorehead and Aaron Pollack

REALMWARE is developing a tool that can help build three-dimensional games, simulations and visualizations. Realmware Corporation, developer of the Visual 3D Game Engine, provides a full range of offshore and US-based software development services for 3D games, simulations, and virtual worlds. The underlying 3D engine for Visual3D Game Engine first began development in 2003, and with Visual3D's All-in-One Toolset beginning development in late 2005.


Michael Callahan, Thomas Coleman, David Osorio, and Bridget Ahern

AMBIENT CORPORATION developed the Audeo. The Audeo is a sensory device placed around the neck of an afflicted person. In operation, it intercepts the signals from the brain that control the vocal chords and the vocal tract. The speech can then either be output directly or used to control external devices, such as a motorized wheelchair.


Andrew Honegger and Andy Phillip

MICROLUTION INC is now a 24-employee company that designs and manufactures specialty machines that create tiny, high-precision parts on Chicago's northwest side. After several years of university level research beginning in the late 1990′s, Microlution officially incorporated in 2005 with a single 3-axis machine. Today, Microlution offers a full line of 3, 4, and 5-axis micro-milling machines, femtosecond laser machining platforms, and a micro lathe for turning applications.


Michael Philpott and Eric Hiller

FEATURE BASED COSTING SYSTEMS is a system and method for automatically estimating the optimized cost of a part during the course of design of the part on a computer-aided design (CAD) system by a designer. An estimate of optimized costs and cost reasoning is fed to the designer as an output display on an output device.


Myung Kim and Aaron Goldstein

KIM LABORATORIES INC is a privately held biotech company. It began operations in May 2003 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) focusing on the food safety market. Kim Laboratories is still the only company in the world who produces antibodies specific for Norovirus.


Bruce Flachsbart and Greg Moszgal

OPTOELECTRONIC ASSEMBLY is working to improve optoelectronic component manufacturing through the development of electronic components and is currently located in Longview, Illinois.


Julie Thompson and Larry Markoski

CHROMAX CHROMATOGRAPHY SOLUTIONS was started in 1998 by two chemistry students. The company developed chromatography devices, used by chemists in industry and academia for chemical analysis. The company was unable to produce many sales due to an expensive product and small market and they eventually shut down.

About how many teams compete in Cozad each year?

It varies from year to year, but normally we have between 75 and 125 teams compete each year.

Do I need to have a developed company to compete in Cozad?

No you do not, you can enter with just an idea, but the teams that win usually work on their idea throughout the semester.

What do I win if I win the Cozad New Venture Competition?

It varies from year to year, but we have given out cash prizes, coworking space, resources, counseling, consulting, and various other prizes to help get the company kickstarted.

What if someone steals my idea?

More often than not, a successful company is about the person, more than the idea. Someone else would not have the same passion, drive, or motivation that you have to start a company. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are not afraid of sharing their idea, getting feedback, and changing their business model. Our advice is "Share to learn".

Is the Executive Summary round an elimnation round?

No, the first elimination round is the Elevator Pitch round.

Are there two rounds of pitching? 

No, there is only 1 round of pitches, split into two nights.

When is the Cozad Showcase and Finals?

It is on Thursday, April 28th throughout the day.

About V. Dale Cozad

Born on a farm in Illinois, Dale Cozad earned a degree in Agricultural Economics from Southern Illinois University, and promptly embarked on a career in insurance. Although very successful, his growing interest in diversified financial services led him to found Cozad Asset Management in 1972. Today, the company is a registered investment advisor with over $350 million in assets under management.

Dale Cozad was also one of the entrepreneurs who founded Cozad Westchester Agricultural Asset Management, which to date has received $390 million in commitments from institutional agricultural investors.

In recognition of Dale’s great success, and of his long friendship with Peter Fox, Peter and his wife Kim have, through a generous endowment, established both the V. Dale Cozad Lecture Series in Entrepreneurship through the College of Commerce, and the Cozad New Venture Competition through the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering. These gifts, enhanced by family and friends of Dale Cozad, honor his memory, his hard work, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit.

Speaking of his father, Greg Cozad, now the president of Cozad Asset Management, recalls that “he was always an entrepreneur at heart, always looking for new financial services that would allow him to serve his clientele better. He was very competitive by nature and loved to encourage and assist young people in their career goals. The Lecture Series in Entrepreneurship and the Business Plan Competition are therefore fitting memorials to my dad, and an outstanding tribute to his legacy. They combine his business interest with his commitment to the University of Illinois."

Dale Cozad was a valued member of the Commerce Business Advisory Council from 1981 until his untimely death in 1993.


Thank you to our 2015-16 Cozad New Venture Competition Sponsors.