Vitrix Health takes home Cozad grand prize
A startup specializing in affordable medical screening is the big winner in the 19th Annual Cozad New Venture Competition hosted by the University of Illinois Technology Entrepreneur Center. Vitrix Health, a year-old startup, which is using optical technology and machine learning to screen for oral cancer, won the grand prize of $25,000 plus several thousand dollars of in-kind prizes at this year’s competition held April 25 at the I-Hotel and Convention Center.
Co-founders Ayush Kumar (Senior in Computer Engineering) and Aashay Patel (Senior in Bioengineering & Hoeft Technology & Management Program) have been collaborating on the project for about a year after it was discovered that each were working on similar projects independently. In addition to the top honor, Vitrix Health was awarded the $10,000 Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Prize presented by Illinois Ventures, a great honor for both since they both started out as Magelli students.
“Oral cancer is one of those diseases where the mortality rate hasn’t gone down over the years, primarily because it’s not detected until stages 3 or 4,” Patel said. “However, it is easily treated if detected early.”
Vitrix Health is giving dentists and other oral care physicians the ability to detect lesions, often an early sign of cancer and giving them an opportunity to order a biopsy to further look into the problem. The startup has received interest from a university in Argentina who is in the process of a clinical trial. It expects early feedback by June 7.
Patel plans to return to India next month for further product implementation. Kumar is working for a healthcare venture capital firm this summer with plans to start medical school in the fall.
“We are hoping we can use similar technologies to address other diseases such as cervical and skin cancer with hopes of moving toward launching of our first product after FDA approval,” Patel said.
“Success in Cozad might change our summer a bit,” Kumar admitted.
Cozad awarded a total of $225,000 in funding and in-kind prizes, a new record for the competition.
Froxii, who is developing a GPS-enabled social media app to help find friends and other individuals with similar interests in your proximity, took home the $15,000 second prize.
Agrimy Agriculture earned the $10,000 third prize. The startup is helping farmers eliminate agricultural waste by providing on-site, eco-friendly bioreactors that use earthworms and microbes to convert waste into useful fertilizer.
Optivolt Labs, LLC won the $5,000 fourth prize. The startup has developed an efficient method for transferring solar power to consumer electronics batteries, allowing for indoor and outdoor light to be used to charge devices.
A couple of firsts for Cozad included allowing teams to remain in the competition until the end provided they completed all the benchmarks along the way and awarding the first $1,000 Newcomer of the Year awards to Intonation Piano and CradleCare. This year was the first time $1,000 was awarded to the Best Prototype of the competition and that went to The Get Shift Project. Of the 46 teams that participated on the final day, eight advanced to present during afternoon of the finals. Besides the top winners, Cut to the Case, Dibbs, Jetson Robotics, and RingWing gave public presentations in the afternoon.
Corporate Sponsors, including Meyer Capel, SerraVentures, The TEKMILL,and more, also awarded prizes to certain teams that focused on specific areas of innovation.
Other awards and winners of the 2018 Cozad New Venture Competition include:
Edwin Moore Ag Prize: Agrimy Agriculture ($5,000)
ISG Ignite Prize for Social Innovation: Cut to the Case ($5,000)
V. Dale Cozad Best Pitch Award: RingWing ($5,000)
Huawei Innovation Award (Best Software or IOT): Froxii ($2,500)
In-Kind Service Prizes:
EnterpriseWorks: Vitrix, Agrimy Agriculture, Jetson Robotics, and RingWing will receive incubation space and resources from EnterpriseWorks for 12 months, which includes student shared office and/or laboratory space and counsel from the Entrepreneurs-in-Residence that meet with student teams regularly.
EW I-Start Prize: Vitrix Health was awarded into the I-Start program which provides 80% funding for the cost of first-year legal services, accounting/financial assistance, SBIR application consulting, business plan and market research preparation, basic website development and logo design.
iVenture Accelerator: CradleCare will receive space for their yearlong, educational startup acceleration program. The iVenture Accelerator enables student-led startups to create economic and social value by supporting student entrepreneurs with knowledge, funding, and access to world-class University of Illinois resources and alumni. A $2,500 stipend per student fellow and up to $10,000 in seed funding per startup team will be awarded.
Meyer Capel: Agrimy Agriculture, Intonation Pianos, and RingWing will receive free legal services in the areas of incorporation, bylaws/operating agreement, initial incorporation/organization documents, drafting employment agreements, non-disclosure.
Serra Ventures: Vitrix Health and Agrimy Agriculture will receive 10 hours in free consulting services for review of business plan and/or pitch will be determined at a later date.
Singleton Law Firm, PC: Vitrix Health, The Get Shifty Project, QuillBot, HexNest, Jetson Robotics, Creative Souls and Froxii will receive free legal services in the areas of corporate formation, patent, trademark, and licensing.
TechNexus Venture Collaborative: Vitrix Health, Optivolt, Jetson Robotics, and Dibbs will receive access to space and resources for twelve months in Chicago, which includes work and meeting space, and access to the community of entrepreneurs and mentors growing there.
The TEKMILL: Jetson Robotics and Lillipad will receive 80 hours engineering time and 40 hours fabrication.
ABOUT COZAD NEW VENTURE COMPETITION
Now in its 19th year, the Cozad New Venture Competition (CNVC), offers students interested in innovation and entrepreneurship the opportunity to explore the skills necessary to succeed not only in the startup community but all facets of life. The competition was established for V. Dale Cozad, an entrepreneur who founded Cozad Westchester Agricultural Asset Management, which to date has received $390 million in commitments from institutional agricultural investors. In recognition of Dale’s great success, and of his long friendship with Peter Fox, Peter and his wife Kim have, through a generous endowment, established the Cozad New Venture Competition through the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering. These gifts, enhanced by family and friends of Dale Cozad, honor his memory, his hard work, dedication and entrepreneurial spirit.