Published: March 17, 2022

On Monday, March 14, great minds met to create the next innovation for this year's cross-campus student ventures. Made up of team members from multiple CU Boulder colleges, multi-disciplinary success rang true at the New Venture Challenge (NVC) 15 Cross-Campus Collaboration Prize Night.

During the final NVC special prize night, five ventures with team members from more than one CU Boulder college competed for a share of $10,000 in prize money. Each team pitched their works in progress to a panel of judges and a crowd of supporters.

"I think the strengths of cross-functional teams really came through, not only in the pitches but also in the audience participation," said Karen Crofton, the evening's host and entrepreneur in residence at the College of Engineering and Applied Science. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how all of the teams progress!"

First place: A self-stopping brake system for walkers

First-place winner Delta Horizons was awarded $5,000 for a newly-developed braking system for four-wheeled walkers. Made up of team members from Leeds School of Business and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, this venture aims to bring confidence back into the day-to-day lives of seniors who rely on walkers. After meeting with multiple senior care living facilities, physical therapists, physicians and seniors themselves, the top concern when using a walker is the risk of falling. Traditional walkers often have tennis balls to ease movement but don't prevent a fall, while newer models with hand brakes can only be used by seniors with the cognitivie function to use the brakes. Delta Horizons' self-braking system not only works when the walker is stopped, but deploys a second brake in the event of a tumble.

“After a bad fall, a senior's life can change in an instant,” said Brandon Cyrus, engineer at Delta Horizons. “Not only will our braking system help prevent the fall, it can provide the confidence seniors need to keep active and moving.”

Coreina Chan, principal of the Rocky Mountain Institute; Dr, Jessica Rush Leeker, professor of engineering management at CU Boulder; and Patricia Karpas, co-founder of Meditation Studio by Muse, represented a wide range of expertise as members of the night's judging panel. 

“It's an honor to be a part of the New Venture Challenge," said Project Manager Benjamin Finan. "NVC is such a great opportunity for smaller startups such as ourselves. We are looking forward to using this award and expanding even further."

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Additional prize winners

In second place, TissueForm was awarded $3,000 for their pitchFounded by CU Alumna Jeanne Berthold and Professor Corey Neu, TissueForm produces tissue-based biomaterials to address clinical problems in plastic surgery, orthopedics, regenerative medicine and 3D bioprinting. TissueForm’s platform technology allows them to source and process different types of tissues such as skin or cartilage, to replicate tissue for clincial drug trials. The team first participated in NVC in 2019, taking home the Women’s Entrepreneurship Challenge prize, first place in the Research & Development track category and third place overall at the Championships.

Third place and $1,000 went to Birk for their all-natural yerba mate. Judges sipped on samples as the team described their South American drink that can provide a natural boost of energy to the average caffeine addict. Coffee, energy drinks and other leading yerba mates often have artificial caffeine additives, leaving users feeling shaky and stressed. Birk incorporates natural caffeine to keep users feeling alert without these negative side effects. Members of Birk not only represent the College of Arts & Sciences and Leeds of Business, but also the Buffs Ski Team. 

Dizzy virtual reality (VR) sessions may be no more with fourth-place winner Full Tilt Motion Labs. One of the biggest pain points for VR users is the feeling of dizziness and neausea after only a few minutes of play time. This engineering and arts team have developed hardware to diminish these side effects that can be added to existing VR headsets. Full Tilt Motion Labs has completed a full user profile and is looking for funding to continue their product research. 

Fifth-place team Colorado Sustainability Co. is building zero net energy homes at resonable prices for homebuyers. By using locally-sourced materials and innovative fire-resistant solutions, each house is only three dollars more expensive per square foot than the average Colorado new build home. The real estate development company is already constructing its first build in south Denver and is will soon be under contract for a second one here on the Front Range. 

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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