2021 CU New Venture Challenge Awards

CU Boulder Entrepreneurship startup update
Social Dynamic

$30,000 awarded to CU’s top startups at New Venture Challenge Specialty Prize Nights

By Mallory Richardson

From March 16-18, CU Boulder’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) kicked off its 13th season by awarding $30,000 to 15 startup teams across three Specialty Prize Night competitions.

As the university’s premier, cross-campus entrepreneurial program and competition, NVC gives aspiring student, faculty and staff entrepreneurs the chance to build a startup through outstanding support and mentorship. NVC connects the CU Boulder campus with the Boulder community to develop and fund innovative ideas. Participants attend year-round events, network and collaborate with mentors to refine their ideas and form startup teams to pitch for funding (more than to $100,000!) at the NVC Championships.

More than 60 out of 110 registered NVC teams chose to participate in one of the three competitions:

  • Impact Prize—Social Impact, Sustainability, Climate Change, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: The teams that competed in this category that creates real impact in the world by (1) addressing a pressing social challenge that affects significant, positive change, (2) promoting solutions to climate change and sustainability, or (3) encouraging diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • NVC Newcomer Prize: The teams that competed in this category were new to competing in NVC.
  • Female Founder Prize: The teams that competed in this category had at least one founder or co-founder who identifies as female.

With inspiring and energetic programming, the Specialty Prize Nights gave attendees a preview of the startups who will be competing in the official NVC competition. Teams submitted a 5-minute video pitch and executive summary for judges to review. The top 5 teams in each Specialty Prize category were invited to present their video pitch live and engage in a live 5-minute Q&A with the judges.

The winners represented all corners of campus, ranging from the Leeds School of Business to the College of Music, to freshmen, graduate students, PhDs and faculty.

Impact Prize Night (March 16):

  • RockyTech ($5,000)—developing a new technology to solve the current plastic waste problem by converting waste into a new material (WeCANTM) that can be used to create high-value products such as auto parts.
  • HUG Solutions ($3,000)—mRNA vaccine cold chain transportation for rural communities
  • Social Dynamic ($1,000)—empowers startups and developing brands to accelerate faster than their competitors, by providing access to specialist teams with ready-made agile frameworks
  • Kegstand ($500)—40 percent lighter kegs with IoT tracking
  • PurBurn ($500)—developing The VersaCook stove, an improved gasifying cookstove for the developing world that reduces indoor air pollution, increases efficiency, provides air flow adjustment, and thermo-electric power generation
"It is a great honor to receive the NVC 14 Impact Prize Award. Now, we are more confident than ever to further our technology to market initiative. We believe this award will also help us attract investors and receive government funding support. This is our first NVC competition, and it has been an amazing experience so far."
Tony Tong
Professor at Leeds School of Business and CEO of RockyTech
CU Boulder Entrepreneurship Chinlax Startup Team

NVC Newcomer Prize Night (March 17):

  • Loopsketch ($5,000)—a remote, real-time collaborative platform for “sketching” musical ideas with friends using user-recorded loops, pre-existing loops, and AI created loops
  • LGBT50 ($3,000)—agency that manages LGBTQ+ influencers on TikTok and Instagram, leveraging network to promote brands on those platforms
  • Chinlax ($1,000)—a smart violin chin rest that tells helps violinists practice form and develop healthy practice habits
  • Topic Insights ($500)—a publishing and media startup with the mission of inspiring the next generation of leaders to use the power of business as a force for good through insights, stories, and research
  • Whizard ($500)—creates personalized problem sets that allow students to connect mathematical concepts with their experiences, hobbies, and interests
"As a newcomer to NVC, I learned a lot from the pitch and executive summary workshops about the importance of storytelling and clearly explaining what your business, tool or service actually does. I also received really helpful feedback around the importance of a clear, multi-faceted financial model to help convince investors that you've done your homework, you understand your limitations, and that your business has a realistic path to profitability."
Darren Sholes
ATLAS Institute PhD Student and founder & chief technology officer of Loopsketch

Female Founder Prize Night (March 18):

  • Chembotix ($5,000)—developing a robotic automation platform to dramatically speed up chemistry research and development
  • Vitro3D ($3,000)—revolutionizing the breast cancer drug discovery process by providing pharmaceutical companies with 3D printed bioactive petri dishes that mimic breast cancer tissue for more accurate screening of drugs, drastically reducing the cost and time of research and development
  • ThinkingHuts ($1,000)— building 3D printed schools in developing countries
  • Toobtek ($500)—creating a fiberoptic intubation training device that will assist medical professionals across the United States in getting trained to execute intubation procedures
  • Scoutcruit ($500)—a social media platform and app catered that makes the recruiting process easier for both college coaches and high school athletes
"Winning the NVC 14 Female Founder Prize gives us critical momentum as we move to the next phase of NVC, and the funds will pay for materials to finalize our prototype hardware. For a fully-remote team that was almost entirely assembled during the pandemic, it's an exciting moment for all of us to see our work starting to pay off. Chembotix is based on my PhD work at the ATLAS Institute, so this win also helps to validate a problem I care deeply about: widespread adoption of laboratory automation. For fellow female founders: Find mentors who will challenge and motivate you, but look inward for inspiration. It's ok if that inspiration is to do something very bold and outside your comfort zone...go for it! Neither your gender nor your identity restrict what you or your company can do."
Kailey Shara
ATLAS Institute PhD student and CEO of Chembotix

“We’re so excited for this NVC season’s crop of startup teams,” said Chris Gustavson, Innovation & Entrepreneurship Director. “Even though NVC went completely virtual this year due to the pandemic, these teams are incredible…they really showed up, did the work and made the most of the experience.”