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.

This year we are making some big changes! All teams who submit an intent to compete form have the opportuntity to compete in the finals event on April 25th. In order to do so, you must complete all deliverables and attend all workshops (see schedule tab). Failure to do so will result in removal from the competition.

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 finalists teams that will present their ventures at the finals event in the afternoon. This year, all teams will compete for $200,000+ in funding and in-kind prizes.

The competition is open to all full-time undergraduate and graduate students of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois), regardless of department or major. Students must be enrolled full-time during the semester of the competition. 30% of the founding team must consist of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students.  Non-students may be members of the management team and participate in planning the venture; but only University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students may present the venture and answer questions from the judges in all rounds and must be present in-person. Students from any institution should occupy 50% or more of the team.

Award Updates

Here are some of the awards that will be given at the finals event:

  • We have corporate sponsors this year focusing prizes on specific areas of innovation:
    • 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. For more information on the Prize, see:
    • Edwin Moore Family Agriculture Innovation Prize: This prize will be awarded to the team with the best agricultural startup. The award honors the legacy of Edwin E. Moore (1924), who graduated from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture and began farming in Will County. Throughout his agricultural career, he and wife, Iva, used innovative farming practices for both crop production and livestock management. Two of their four children became farmers, Edwin and Thomas (1953, College of Agriculture), and continued use of innovative farm practices. 
    • Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Prize: IllinoisVENTURES is pleased to award the Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Prize to a Cozad finalist.  The $10,000 Magelli Prize will be in the form of a direct or convertible equity investment in a startup team that has demonstrated its potential to grow and create significant value as an entrepreneurial venture.
    • V. Dale Cozad Best Pitch Award: This prize honors the importance of effective presentation and communication skills in all business endeavors and will be awarded to the team with the best pitch at the finals event in April.
    • Illinois Student Government Ignite Prize for Social Innovation: This prize will support a venture which is aiming to use business principles, innovative technologies, and human capitals or services to advance the condition of populations like the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and the marginalized. 
  • We offer additional mentoring (from alumni and community) for teams throughout the competition.

Office hours are ongoing. Email Stephanie Larson at for an appointment. More details will be shared soon. You must attend the 3 workshops and submit all deliverables by the stated deadlines to stay and compete in the competition. Failure to do so will result in elimination.  See Rules for full explanation of event requirements.



February 2 | 12:00-1:30pm | IP Clinic Kickoff | Siebel 2405 | Click here to view slides

February 7 | DEADLINE TO SUBMIT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY via StartupCompete by 11:59PM

February 13 | 5:00-7:00pm | MANDATORY Workshop #1 Ecosystem Mapping | Siebel 1404 (Deadline to submit signed waivers) (links to slides and video of the main presentation)


February 19 | DEADLINE TO SIGN UP Mentor Office Hours | Advance reservations required (sign up here)


February 21, 22, 23 | On-going | RECOMMENDED Mentor Office Hours (Sign-up reservations due by End of Day sign up here by Feb 19)

February 25 | DEADLINE TO SUBMIT Workshop #1 Assignment Deliverables: Ecosystem Map and Value Chain Map (submit to StartUpCompete)

February 26 | 5:00-7:00pm | MANDATORY Workshop #2 Value Propositions Canvas / Product Market Fit | Loomis Laboratory 151


March 12 | DEADLINE TO SUBMIT Workshop #2 Assignment Deliverables: Revised Canvas, Product-Market Fit, Answers to Customer Exploration (submit to StartUpCompete)

March 13 | 5:00-7:00pm | MANDATORY Workshop #3 Pitching | Siebel 1404

April 4 | 5:00-8:00pm | Elevator Pitches | 100 or 213 Greg Hall | Room to be Assigned NOTE: Elevator Pitch lineups will be announced via email right before April 4.

April 8 | Final Materials Due via StartupCompete by 11:59PM; submit a written submission (limited to five pages, double-spaced and 1” margins on all sides) and up to 10-slide PowerPoint presentation (not including cover pages). An outline of what to inlcude can be found here

April 12 | Chicago Mentoring Event (optional; only the first 50 students who sign-up will attend)

April 16 | Revised Final materials due via StartupCompete



Tuesday, April 24 | 5:00 - 7:00pm | Kickoff and Networking Event | Grainger Engineering Library

Wednesday, April 25 | 9:00am - 6:00pm | Showcase and Finals: Winners announced at awards ceremony | I-Hotel


We just ask for team member names and contact information along with a one-line pitch of your startup idea.

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.

Click here for the 2017-18 Cozad Rule Book

Executive Summary (Due February 7, 2018. Online form will be available soon.)
Executive summaries should answer the following questions:

  • Title of Business / Concept         
  • Team Leader Name       
  • One Line Pitch  
  • Team: names, capabilities, objectives for each member
  • Project Summary: what’s the problem & how do you solve it? Current status of the project?
  • Customer Segment: for whom are you creating value?
  • Value Proposition: why would they buy?
  • Target Market: size, growth, trends
  • Competitors: how is the problem currently solved?
  • Competitive Advantage: why would a customer choose your solution?

Final Submission Materials

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

Join a Team

Students looking to join a team or startups looking to add team members with a particular skill or background can utilize this team-building spreadsheet.

Looking to Join a Team: For students looking to join a team, please fill out the “INDIVIDUALS LOOKING FOR A TEAM” tab of the spreadsheet.

Startup Seeking Teammates: For startups looking to add team members, please fill out the “STARTUP SEEKING TEAMMATES” tab of the spreadsheet.


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 as there are many changes this year, and let the TEC faculty/staff know if you have any questions regarding the contents herein.

2017-18 Rules for the Cozad Competition


Sam Walder

TRALA is an intelligent practice app for musicians that listens to you play your real instrument and provides real-time feedback and motivation to help you learn twice as fast.


Anthony Griffin, Arthur Hoki, & Ishaan Sood

AUTONOMIC ENERGY SYSTEMS enables safe, long-lasting lithium-ion batteries by using thermoresponsive microcapsules.


Lucas Frye, Joey Varikooty, "Howie" Wei Yang, Tang An Yang, & Xiang Wen

AMBER AGRICULTURE is developing a wireless sensor that monitors crops stored in grain bins. The sensor will communicate important data directly to a smartphone app. Farmers can then use this data to assess the crop's value and make management decisions. The sensor measures carbon dioxide, organic compounds, temperature and humidity. These factors determine the grain's moisture content, and can help farmers know how best to control their dryers and fans to ensure proper moisture levels of their grain.

Amber Agriculture



Hanze Ying, Yichen Yang, Garrett Chou, Manas Gosavi, and Yingfeng Yang

HPT: HINDERED POLYUREA TECHNOLOGY creates a low-cost, recyclable sacrificial polymer (polymers that can evaporate thermally). This is a cheaper, cleaner and safer material for semiconductors, orthopedic impants, and more.


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.

When is my Intent to Compete due?

This year, your Intent to Compete is due on Sunday, February 4th at 11:59 p.m.

What is included in the Executive Summary?

  1. Title of Business / Concept         
  2. Team Leader Name       
  3. One Line Pitch  
  4. Team: names, capabilities, objectives for each member.
  5. Project Summary: what’s the problem & how do you solve it? Current status of the project?
  6. Customer Segment: for whom are you creating value?
  7. Value Proposition: why would they buy?
  8. Target Market: size, growth, trends
  9. Competitors: how is the problem currently solved?
  10. Competitive Advantage: why would a customer choose your solution?

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.

If I am a judge or sponsor and need a hotel room, where should I stay?

Recommended Hotels: 

HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS (all reservations need to be made by March 20th):

I Hotel and Convention Center, 217-819-5000

Champaign, IL 61820 

Conference rate:  $109/night

Conference Code: COZAD18 or use this link 

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 elimination round?

No, there are no elimination rounds until the finals event. 

Are there two rounds of pitching? 

No, there is only 1 round of pitches. Should you make it to the finals there will be one more pitch.

When is the Cozad Showcase and Finals?

It is on Wednesday, April 25th throughout the day.

Can international students participate in Cozad?

Yes, international students can participate in Cozad. However, it is recommended you speak to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). Contact: Stephanie Dvorachek 

I am having trouble putting together my final materials. Is there a document to follow?

Yes, you can find guidance here! 

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 2017-18 Cozad New Venture Competition Sponsors.






Technology Entrepreneur Center

Engineering at Illinois

351 Coordinated Science Lab, MC-228
1308 W. Main Street
Urbana, IL 61801

Social Media