Published: March 9, 2022

The new age in entrepreneurial ventures is female-led. From mental health campaigns and apps to data-driven analytics for content creators, the next wave of female-driven innovation was on full display Wednesday night at the New Venture Challenge (NVC) 15 Female Founders Prize Night at Imig Music.

Many attendees braved the snow while others joined remotely for presentations from five ventures founded and developed by female-identifying entrepreneurs. Each team pitched their works in progress to a panel of judges, competing for a share of $10,000 in prize money. 

“It was such a pleasure to not only see young people be so innovative and creative, but to see these ideas come from women! If I could, I’d host this event every year,” said Barbara Brooks, CEO and founder of SecondAct|Women and host of the event.

First place: AI-driven data for social media influencers

Notice., the night's first place winner, was awarded $5,000 for their qualitative data platform for small-scale social media influencers. For $30 a month, content creators can receive feedback and suggestions after each tweet, Instagram photo or TikTok. Their AI sentiment analysis takes comments and user engagement to transform data into actionable suggestions to increase a creator’s influence online.

“I am so grateful to the judges and the incredibly inspiring teams I met last night,” said Priscilla Hopper, Notice. team member and representative. “It feels so good to finally sit in a room with other entrepreneurial women and speak about each of our innovating ideas in ‘real life.’”

The night’s judging panel not only evaluated the teams’ pitches and awarded prize money, but also gave constructive feedback to each of the teams on their presentations. Kanitha Heng Snow, director of strategic partnerships and marketing for Energize Colorado and co-founder of the Colorado Universities Innovation Council; Joanna Money, client manager at Innosphere and a consultant at IndustriaSpark; and Yoriko Morita, founder of Patents Integrated, asked hard-hitting questions for student pitches and encouraged all the teams to continue pursuing their passions after graduation.

“It has been a difficult two years for anyone and especially for young female entrepreneurs, so receiving the opportunity to just experience last night made me feel very seen, heard, respected and recognized for my and my team’s hard work,” said Hopper, noting the great support and resources available to student founders at CU Boulder and within the Boulder community.

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Additional prize winners

Second place and $3,000 was awarded to runner-up Vitro3D, presented by co-founder and Leeds School of Business alumna Camila Uzcategui, PhD. A previous NVC participant, Vitro3D demonstrated the future of 3D printed dental aligners. These devices can be made in only an hour or two in the dentist’s office, saving both patients and providers money and time. The business made a major strategic pivot this past year, shifting away from its original focus on 3D-printed materials that mimic the human body for clinical oncology drug trials. Vitro3D also recently presented to potential investors at the 2022 Destination Startup® showcase, hosted by the university’s commercialization arm Venture Partners at CU Boulder

Third place and $1,000 went to Chembotix for their robotic automation platform, which is designed to dramatically speed up chemistry research and development (R&D). This deep-tech venture is led by Kailey Shara, a PhD student at the ATLAS Institute. As a three-time NVC participant, Chembotix was named the first-place winner at last year's NVC Female Founder Prize Night and received Audience Favorite at the 2021 championships. Chembotix’s technology is based off the ChemBot, a low-cost chemical synthesis robot built to automate chemistry lab operations developed by Shara and Carson Bruns, PhD.

Digital Wellness x NoSo November, which placed fourth, hopes to market camps for at-risk kids negatively impacted by social media. By promoting an oasis away from social media pressures, Digital Wellness will help teens build self-esteem and develop skills to manage anxiety and social pressures. Led by Annie Bruns, teaching assistant professor with the ATLAS Institute, Digital Wellness aims to help teens build self-esteem and develop skills to manage anxiety and social pressures by promoting an oasis away from social media pressures. In tandem, the NoSo “No Social Media” November campaign encourages everyone to take a month away from their phones and use that time to tend to personal wellness. With a few camps already under their belt, the team hopes to expand their services to other states.

Fifth place team The Connective looked to bring essential mental health services straight to college students with a free-to-use app. Unlike leading mental health apps on the market, The Connective is entirely free for college students struggling with balancing exams, their social life and work. This business has received mentorships from similar services including Calm and HeadSpace.

About the New Venture Challenge

Now in its 14th year, the New Venture Challenge has been CU Boulder’s premier, cross-campus entrepreneurial program and competition, giving aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to build a startup through outstanding support and mentorship. Teams from Wednesday night will continue competing in the NVC general track, ahead of the championship coming up on April 12, 2022.

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