Cozad New Venture Challenge


Level up your startup with the Cozad New Venture Challenge 

Have a startup idea? Take the Cozad New Venture Challenge to accelerate your idea with funding, mentoring and more!

Valuable Connections | Connect with investors and mentors that can help launch your startup. Get one-on-one deep dive sessions with mentors who are industry experts, venture capitalists, alums, and entrepreneurs.

Record Funding | Get funding and prizes from a record pool of $400,000.

Additional Track | We’re offering an additional Healthcare Track with specialized mentoring and workshops with funding and prizes up to $100,000. The track includes prizes for Rural Health, Sports Medicine, and Healthcare Innovation. Learn More.

Demo Day Giveaway | We'll be awarding $250 and $500 prizes from a pool of $10,000 at Demo Day.

2024 Cozad New Venture Challenge Update
Congratulations to the Pathlit student startup team that won the Grand Prize on April 17 in Chicago! Read about Pathlit and the other teams that won big funding at the Finals Event.

Read the Story


Cozad New Venture Challenge Success Stories

Patrick Walsh<br>Co-founder & CEO
Patrick Walsh
Co-founder & CEO

Sun King


Sun King raised $260 million in series D funding in 2022, the largest investment in the off-grid energy sector ever. Sun King operates the world's largest direct-to-consumer, pay-as-you-go solar distribution network.

We’ve provided our products to about 100 million people across Asia and Africa since 2007. We have 2,500 employees and 25,000 sales agents working today to distribute our products—to distribute not only basic solar lights, but also bigger solar systems that can power people’s whole homes. All of this was seriously made possible by the Technology Entrepreneur Center, and specifically by Andy Singer, helping to establish that entrepreneurial spirit in me as a student, and helping Sun King to get started.

Patrick Walsh

Cara Bognar, Founder<br>Allison Landis, COO
Cara Bognar, Founder
Allison Landis, COO

Top Tier Lessons


Top Tier Lessons is an online platform that connects college student athletes with parents in the community looking for sports lessons for their kids. Led by Cara Bognar, D1 swimmer at UIUC, Top Tier Lessons leverages the new market opportunity provided by the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) bill that was passed in 2021. NIL refers to an individual's ability to capitalize on their right of publicity and to be compensated through third-party endorsements. Learn more from Sports Illustrated.

The Cozad New Venture Challenge has always represented the pinnacle of everything the entrepreneurship ecosystem at UIUC offers and stands for. We never would have imagined being able to win! This funding will help keep us on track to launch in another 20 schools and continue to inspire future generations of athletes. I’m grateful for how Cozad has supported me every step of the way.

Cara Bognar

Ashley Moy<br>Co-founder
Ashley Moy

Cast 21


Cast21, which has raised a total of $2.4 million in funding, is a medical device company that produces a lighter, hygienic, waterproof, and comfortable cast alternative to a traditional plastic and fiberglass cast. 

The Cozad New Venture Challenge was the first opportunity to look critically at our business. It was a great experience to get feedback from industry leaders and meet fellow entrepreneurs. We're still in touch with many of those people and continue to exchange ideas to keep our businesses thriving.

Ashley Moy

Alex Kosyakov<br>Co-founder
Alex Kosyakov



Natrion secured $2 million in seed funding in 2022. The clean energy startup develops solid-state lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery components for electric mobility and defense applications. In 2021, Natrion also secured significant funding from the U.S. Department of Defense, including a $200,000 Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) contract from the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division.

Going through the Cozad New Venture Challenge helped our team evolve considerably. What we learned helped us to not only win the Grand Prize, but continues to be essential in our everyday work as we raise capital, secure commercial pilots, and take Natrion to new heights.

Alex Kosyakov

Paul Couston<br>Co-founder
Paul Couston

Ascent Integrated Tech


Ascent Integrated Tech has received $2.5 million in venture funding and has booked $4.5 million in government contracts. Paul Couston is the co-founder of Ascent, which has developed a single screen dashboard to improve the safety of firefighters, special forces, SWAT teams, and hazmat teams. The startup provides actionable insights on the health, environment, and location of team members. Prior to Ascent Integrated Tech, Paul co-founded Optivolt Labs, a clean energy firm.

The Cozad New Venture Challenge helped me understand the importance of addressing the product’s market, how to price it, and the value my product was adding instead of just falling in love with the product itself and not thinking about the business aspects.

Paul Couston

Bobby Reddy, Jr.<br>Co-founder & CEO
Bobby Reddy, Jr.
Co-founder & CEO



Prenosis has raised $20 million in funding and secured a $4.3 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense. Prenosis provides a portfolio of decision support tools allowing physicians to understand an individual patient’s full immune profile and prescribe the optimal therapy faster by leveraging artificial intelligence.

Finding the right market and preparing the business plan for our medical device were some of the new challenges that we experienced while participating in the Cozad New Venture Challenge. We found that translating technology from the lab to the public space was both very challenging and very exciting.

Umer Hassan
Prenosis Co-founder

Aadeel Akhtar<br>Founder & CEO
Aadeel Akhtar
Founder & CEO



PSYONIC makes the Ability Hand, an advanced bionic hand with sensory feedback that was released nationally in 2021. The startup provides an affordable and accessible prosthesis with unique bionic abilities.

Vish Indukuri & Sam Walder<br>Co-founders
Vish Indukuri & Sam Walder



Trala has raised a total of $15 million in funding and is revolutionizing the music education industry. Trala is a music app that teaches users how to play the violin. Founded in 2017, Trala gives real-time feedback with its proprietary audio processing technology. The app has been downloaded by more than 400,000 people from 193 countries.

Trala’s success is a direct result of the support from the UIUC entrepreneurial community. Shout out to the ECE department, the fine judges at the Cozad New Venture Challenge, iVenture Accelerator, Illinois Ventures, and every student who has been part of Trala.

Sam Walder

Danny Gardner<br>Founder
Danny Gardner



Mesh++ has raised $4.9 million in funding. The company bridges the digital divide by bringing WiFi anywhere with solar powered broadband nodes. The Chicago-based company is focused on bringing internet connectivity to rural and underserved communities.


Has been awarded in funding and prizes since 2000

Mentors and judges were involved in Cozad in 2023


Students have participated in Cozad

Photo Album | Cozad New Venture Challenge 2024

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