Students win prizes for startup business plans

Startup Challenge 2016

Rachel Harsley, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering, presents her business plan. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

More than 150 students competed April 15 in the 11th Annual UIC Startup Challenge business plan competition sponsored by the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

The winners presented their business plans to a panel of judges consisting of business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors during the event in Student Center East. This year, 56 teams advanced to the UIC Startup Challenge semifinals. Participants represented 12 UIC colleges.

“This year’s Startup Challenge was the most vibrant and diverse by far,” said Nancy Harvey, executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “You could feel the UIC entrepreneurial spirit. And that entrepreneurial spirit bubbled up from all over the campus.”

First place went to College of Engineering Ph.D. student Rachel Harsley and College of Engineering alumnus Daniel Ruiz. They won $3,000 for Clean Slate Messenger, a digital platform that offers private, instant chat to help youth to control their digital trail through on-demand deletion and captivating letter-by-letter messaging.

College of Business Administration graduate student Sofia Sanchez and College of Applied Health Sciences graduate student Austin Robinson took second and $1,000 for Beet Strong. The beet-infused nutrition bar is high in protein and fiber, and made with real fruits, nuts and chocolate. Ingredients are linked to improvements in cardiovascular function, athletic performance and muscle building.

Elevator pitch winner and fan favorite was International Youth & Children Sports Development, which focuses on developing international sports programs for UIC international students and more than 1 million students in Beijing, China. The project received $750.

Finalist startup ideas, which each received $500, include:

The Arch Fingerskate Corporation produces one of the world’s most creative, innovative and interactive fingerskate platforms and strives to capitalize on a young, emerging fingerskating market.

Clearmaze Technologies is a startup that helps community college students pick the right courses that transfer to a university, using a simple, 3-step process.

NeXTSTEP Bank helps students submit one student loan application to receive multiple offers from different banks in order to select the best one to meet their needs.

sĕntēme uses the power of user-generated online content to provide in-depth, automated summaries of people’s opinions, enable customers to make quick buying decisions, and help businesses design better products.

RecoNinja uses artificial intelligence to present fine-tuned recommendations to users, allowing them to spend their valuable time consuming content rather than searching for it.

nexpil, inc. keeps heart failure patients in a homeostatic fluid state, autonomously titrating diuretics via machine-learning software, utilizing existing hardware technology to collect and deliver data.

Hizzah is the education platform for young, active learners who want a more engaging experience by integrating learning with analytics and exciting multiplayer games.


Projects that received $500 and Early Venture Track Recognition include:

Ecoair is an interdisciplinary team focusing on a sustainable lifestyle for cost-efficient consumers by combining engineering and marketing mindsets to deliver a desirable product.

Clutch for Life gives prison inmates a second chance at success by allowing inmates to handcraft luxury bags for their community.

ShoeBoxOne has evolved from the traditionally burdensome shoe storage and was created to fulfill every shoe collector’s dream.  A single solution to protect and present customers most valuable possessions.

Pear Loans, Inc. matches investors with small businesses through a patented online lending platform that provides faster funding, better rates and asset backed security.

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