Cozad New Venture Challenge Official Rules

The campus-wide Cozad New Venture Challenge, held annually since 2000, provides mentoring to teams through the phases of venture creation; and workshops on idea validation, pitching skills, and customer development.

In 2024, teams are competing for $400,000 in funding and in-kind prizes. The awards are funded through sponsorship, alumni donations, and campus partners. All teams who meet the requirements of the Cozad New Venture Challenge, including submitting all mandatory deliverables and meet attendance requirements, have the opportunity to compete in the Demo Showcase in April. Students will get to showcase their ideas to venture capitalists, early-stage investors, and successful entrepreneurs who serve as judges. The judges determine which teams will present their ventures at the Finals Event

All teams who present at Demo Day are eligible for a wide selection of funding and prizes from our generous sponsors. We’ll also be awarding $250 and $500 prizes from a pool of $10,000 at Demo Day. Only teams who are selected as finalists and compete in the Finals Event are eligible for the top placement prizes (Grand Prize, Second Place, and so forth). 

Who is eligible to participate?

  • 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 Urbana-Champaign during the academic year in which they are competing.
  • Forming a team is not required; students may participate on their own.
  • All teams must include at least one full-time, on-campus, residential, degree-seeking student in order to compete. For example, if you are an iMBA student, your team must include a student that has these qualifications.

Healthcare Track Details

We’re offering a specialized HEALTHCARE TRACK this year with funding and prizes up to $100,000. This includes prizes for Rural Health, Sports Medicine, and Healthcare Innovation.

  • Rural Health - This prize category is open to all students across campus, and may be of special interest to students in Applied Health Sciences or ACES, for instance. This category isn’t just for Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED) students.
  • Sports Medicine - To be eligible to compete for this prize category, teams must have at least one CI MED student on their team.
  • Healthcare Innovation - To be eligible to compete for this prize category, teams must have at least one CI MED student on their team.
    • NOTE: Non-CI MED students may compete in the Cozad New Venture Challenge and still have a healthcare innovation startup idea, but they will only be eligible for prizes from the main Cozad New Venture Challenge prize pool, not funds set aside for Healthcare Track prizes.


Please contact Stephanie Faraci at or Kearsa Rawson at

Read the Cozad New Venture Challenge Official Rule Book for full details.

View the Official Rule Book


Learn about SAFE Funding

The top cash prizes in the Cozad New Venture Challenge are awarded through SAFE funding. Learn how SAFEs are set up to be enormously beneficial to student founders. Y Combinator pioneered the SAFE in 2013 as a way for early-stage startups without valuations to get needed funding.

Learn More about SAFE Funding