Sponsors & Prizes

Cozad New Venture Challenge Sponsors

Scroll to the bottom for information about funding, prizes, and tracks for 2024.




  • Joe Beatty
  • Dan and Cindy Caruso
  • Marcin Kleczynski
  • Rick Stephens
  • Adam Tilton


Funding and Prizes 2024

In 2024, teams are competing for over $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

Cozad New Venture Challenge Prize Pool   |  Up to $100,000

Awarding Cozad New Venture Challenge finalists prizes from a pool of approximately $100,000 for exceptional startups poised for breakthrough success in order to elevate their startups and move their vision forward.  

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists 
  • Sponsored by: Generous contributors to the TEC Exceleration Fund 

Rural Health Innovation  |  Up to $30,000

For teams exploring solutions related to access to care, mental health, addiction, obesity, nutrition, and care for aging individuals. 

  • Eligibility: Any team developing solutions to support rural health-related issues 
  • Sponsored by: Barkmeier Tice Foundation 

Grainger Engineering Cozad Prize  |  Up to $25,000 

This prize seeks to secure promising Grainger Engineering student technology startups from a pool of up to $25,000 to propel these ventures forward.  This award is for teams ready to elevate their trajectory to connect with the Chicago tech ecosystem, access guidance from tech leaders and investors, and compete in a Chicago-based pitch competition against other Midwestern teams to thrive in Chicago’s tech landscape. 

Business and Engineering Partnership Prize  |  Up to $25,000 

Rewards exceptional teams with high potential for growth comprised of Gies Business and Grainger Engineering students actively engaged in Cozad New Venture Challenge programming and can demonstrate an equitable partnership. These teams will qualify to participate in opportunities focused on connecting teams to the robust entrepreneurship resources available in Chicago including commercialization programs that may offer the opportunity for follow on funding.   

  • Eligibility: Teams that are composed of at least one Gies Business student and at least one Grainger Engineering student
  • Sponsored by: Rick and Gayle Landuyt

Advancements in Sports Medicine  |  Up to $20,000

This prize recognizes innovative solutions bridging healthcare and athletics, empowering past and present athletes through technology and medical advancements.  

Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Award  |  $10,000  

This prize honors Dr. Magelli and his significant impact on the University of Illinois. Dr. Magelli was a driving force for entrepreneurship throughout the University launching startups and student careers for over 20 years. Illinois Ventures, the venture capital arm of the University of Illinois System, provides early-stage investment capital for advanced technology ventures led by faculty, students, and alumni. Illinois Ventures also operates Illini Angels, an alumni angel group that invests in University-related startups. 

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge Finalists 
  • Sponsored by: Illinois Ventures

Commitment to Entrepreneurship  |  Awards of $250 - $1,000 from a pool of up to $10,000 

For teams that remained dedicated to developing their ideas throughout the semester and are encouraged to continue their journey, knowing their efforts are valued and supported. 

  • Eligibility: Teams that participate in Cozad New Venture Challenge workshops and showcase at Demo Day
  • Sponsored by: Hoveida Family Foundation 

AWARE Prizes  |  Awards of $250 - $1,000 from a pool of up to $10,000 

This prize celebrates students from underrepresented backgrounds in entrepreneurship, aiming to to foster diversity and inclusivity. This recognition seeks to empower teams to thrive, amplifying their voices and contributions. 

  • Eligibility: TBD
  • Sponsored by: Craig and Sabrina Vodnik

Finals Best Pitch  |  $5,000 

The Finals Best Pitch award recognizes teams that excel in conveying a compelling vision using their visual aids and sharing information in an organized way within the time constraints. 

Innovate and Iterate Prototyping Microgrants  |  $250 - $500 prizes from a pool of up to $5,500 

We’re offering microgrants to cover the cost of special equipment, tools, and supplies to support student teams in building prototypes, refining ideas, and continuously iterating their innovations.  

  • Eligibility: Any Cozad New Venture Challenge team working on physical projects that need to cover supply and material costs
  • Sponsored by: Former Cozad New Venture Challenge participant Matt Gornick, Founder and CEO of OrangeQC

Ag Innovation  |  Up to $2,500  

For students pioneering agriculture innovation ideas that seek to boost sustainability, increase efficiencies, and optimize resource improvement in the face of global challenges like climate change and food security.  

  • Eligibility: Any Cozad New Venture Challenge team that presents at Demo Day 
  • Sponsored by: The Edwin Moore Family

Demo Day Best Pitch  |  $500 

The Demo Day Best Pitch Award recognizes teams that excel in conveying a compelling vision for their idea.  

  • Eligibility: Cozad New Venture Challenge teams that present at Demo Day 
  • Sponsored by: Cozad Asset Management

Demo Day Out of the Box Thinking  |  $500 

This prize recognizes students’ creativity, originality, and visionary approach to solving problems with novel concepts.  

Questions? Please contact Stephanie Faraci at shalvors@illinois.edu or Kearsa Rawson at klrawson@illinois.edu.