Grainger Engineering Startup City Scholars Teams Secure $60K Total Investment in the 10th Annual College New Venture Challenge

3/14/2022 11:59:05 AM Urvashi Jha

Two teams featuring Grainger Engineering Startup City Scholars have each secured $30,000 in investment by winning second place in the 10th annual College New Venture Challenge (CNVC). Tying for second place is Haylon Technologies, a battery startup founded by  University of Illinois students and StandOut Search, an internship matching platform for high school students, founded by a University of Chicago-led team that includes University of Illinois team members.

The CNVC is the undergraduate track of the Edward L. Kaplan, '71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), a top-ranked U.S. accelerator program. Since 2019, the CNVC program has been open to returning undergraduate students from the University of Chicago, as well as students in The Grainger College of Engineering’s Startup City Scholars program. Through the nine week long cohort, Startup City Scholars students get the opportunity to leverage Chicago’s many resources for entrepreneurs, encouraging them to build businesses in Chicago after graduation.

Brenna Conway, Director of the City Scholars Program, says, “University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students continue to bring incredible research-based solutions to the CNVC competition. Watching University of Illinois students excel in the CNVC finals year after year, it is evident that the Startup City Scholars partnership with the University of Chicago is a great success for both schools. It’s also exciting to see momentum for this program grow. This year we saw many UIUC students participate on CNVC teams, combining their strengths with University of Chicago students to launch innovative businesses.”

Founded by Namin Shah, an Electrical Engineering student at the University of Illinois, Haylon Technologies aims to revolutionize the performance, safety, and sustainability of batteries through a new battery management system. The system can intelligently switch between different energy sources to accomplish different tasks. Haylon is currently producing a fixed-wing drone battery with 40% greater battery life.  

 “CNVC was an eye-opening experience. I could showcase my vision to a wide range of individuals, including the  students I collaborated with at UChicago. Expanding and developing an idea I had and witnessing it flourish to where I could present in the final round of the competition solidified a long-term passion of mine,” said Namin Shah.

He added, “The difference between participating in this competition, and other aspects of my business' growth so far, was the environment and individuals I could engage with throughout the program. Placing myself and my business in a setting with investors and experienced educators is a brilliant stepping stone towards my future development plans for Haylon Technologies. The program allowed me to leave the strict engineering mindset and approach the problems our company is tackling from a sharp business sense.”

The other second place team, StandOut Search, aims to make internships more accessible to high school students. The startup partners with top universities and innovation hubs to source internships for high school students, particularly at early stage startups. Jeff Shin, Co-founder of StandOut Search and Computer Science student at the University of Illinois said, "The engagement with the professors and mentors in the Startup City Scholars program was remarkable. This opportunity led me to consider pursuing  entrepreneurship as a career, and I cannot wait to see how StandOut Search will stand out in the coming years.”

"Working as a part of the Standout Search team this past semester was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Learning from other undergraduate students who have built companies from the ground up has helped inspire me and show me that anyone who is passionate about solving a problem can create something truly special, no matter the circumstances. Being a part of an interdisciplinary team with students from both the University of Illinois and The University of Chicago allowed for another layer of teamwork and collaboration that helped both StandOut Search and the team grow," said Cara Bognar, a Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering student at the University of Illinois and Chief Outreach Officer at StandOut Search. 

Read about the other winning teams of the 2022 CNVC competition here.