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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Entrepreneur Awards

New Venture Competition

In celebration of the local entrepreneurship community, the Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship honors entrepreneurs and advocates for their innovation, success and entrepreneurial spirit. Nominations for award consideration open on February 1, 2025 and awards will be presented during the New Venture Competition reception on April 22, 2025.

Nominations will open on February 1, 2025

Nebraska Distinguished Entrepreneur Award Distinguished Entrepreneur Award Emerging Venture Award Start-Up Executive Award Entrepreneur Advocate Award Jeff Vaske Service in Entrepreneurship Award Faculty/Staff Entrepreneurship Advocacy Award Student Entrepreneur Award New Venture Competition Grand Prize Winners

Nebraska Distinguished Entrepreneur Award

Presented to the founder of an established, successful entrepreneurial Nebraska company that inspires and demonstrates continued innovation. This award honors individuals who have shown remarkable dedication, resilience and ingenuity in building and growing successful businesses that serve as pillars of innovation and economic growth in Nebraska and beyond.

Prior recipients include: Mike Smith, The Bay; Brett Thome, Spreetail; Matthew Wegener, ISoft Data Systems / Turbine Flats; Larry L. Snyder, Snyder Industries, Inc.; W. Patrick Clarke, Northstar Financial Services Group, LLC; David Graff, Brian Kaiser and John Wirtz, Hudl; Michael D. Hays, NRC Health

Distinguished Entrepreneur Award

Presented to the founder of an established, successful company with ties to Nebraska that inspires and demonstrates continued innovation. Recipients of this award are distinguished by their ability to transform bold ideas into thriving enterprises, creating jobs, driving economic prosperity, and inspiring others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Company or founder should be connected to Nebraska in some way and must be stated as such in the nomination form.

Prior recipients include: Janna Ronert, Image Skincare and Hush & Hush

Emerging Venture Award

Presented to a company that is less than five years old that has proven successful in creating an innovative offering experiencing early growth and success. This award recognizes the leadership and dedication instrumental in driving the company's early success and their capacity to innovate and adapt in a competitive landscape.

Prior recipients include: Jackson Stansell, Sentinel Fertigation; Jordan Lambrecht, Karley Johnson and Tony Bertino, Pixel Bakery; Vishal Singh, QuantifiedAg; Matt Taylor, Tavern on the Square and The Other Room; Matt Medlock, Paysafe; Paul and Stephanie Jarrett, Bulu Julie Mahlock,; Blake Lawrence, Hurrdat / opendorse

Startup Executive Award

Presented to an individual who has made a positive and significant impact to the growth of at least one company. While not the founder, this individual contributes to the success of a company in a way that exemplifies exceptional leadership, strategic vision, and unwavering dedication.

Prior recipients include: Erin Stahla, Stahla Services; Dillon Sadofsky, Presage Analytics; John Hogan, Home Instead Senior Care; Joseph Knecht, Venture Tech; Bill Hipsher, B2 Interactive; Joe Petsick, Proxibid; Thomas G. Guy

Entrepreneur Advocate Award

Presented to an individual who has who has played a crucial role in advancing the progress of Nebraska's startup community through substantial commitment and dedication to fostering the growth and success of Nebraska's vibrant startup community. This award recognizes the invaluable contributions of individuals who have gone above and beyond to support and champion entrepreneurs, startups, and innovation-driven initiatives throughout the state.

Prior recipients include: Justin Krug, Nebraska Startup Job Mixer; Christina Oldfather, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development; Dan Hoffman, Invest Nebraska; Gregg Christensen, Nebraska Department of Education

Jeff Vaske Service in Entrepreneurship Award

Presented to an individual in recognition of unwavering leadership, dedication, and invaluable contributions. Like the inaugural recipient and for whom this award is named, this celebrates the recipients tireless devotion and outstanding efforts which have significantly impacted the Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship's success.

Prior recipients include: Vern Powers, Hastings Industrial Manufacturing

Faculty and Staff Entrepreneurship Advocacy Award

Presented to a University of Nebraska faculty or staff member who demonstrates exceptional commitment and support in fostering students' entrepreneurial endeavors. This individual actively contributes to the growth and success of student-led entrepreneurial initiatives, showcasing a dedication to innovation on campus and within the Nebraska community.

Prior recipients include: Dave Lambe, Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program

Student Entrepreneur Award

Presented to a student who has contributed to the engagement and community of the Center for Entrepreneurship. This student displays hard work in and out of the classroom and is an advocate for entrepreneurship on campus. This student embodies innovation and collaboration and energizes other students to do the same.

Prior recipients include: Eduardo Sicilia Ayala, 2%Football

New Venture Competition Grand Prize Winners

Each year, more than 48 student teams compete in a bracket format for the right to be crowned champion of the New Venture Competition. Four final teams will compete for prize money totaling $45,000.

Year Name Company
2024: Traditional Bracket Eduardo Sicilia Ayala 2%Football
2024: Advanced Traction Bracket Abby Miller Pat on Tap
2023 Grace Clausen, Tristan Curd, Bridget Peterkin, Schadrack Shumbusho Dsylexico
2022 Seth Daup and Brooke Bode Cattle Kettle
2021 Hunter Suchsland & Cade Ludwig LS Lures
2019 Hannah Esch Oak Barn Beef
Alain Mutabazi and Kane Wellnitz Savannah Breeders Service
2018 Justin Collier and Lizz Whitacre Pawlytics
Joseph and Matthew Brugger Upstream Farms
2017 Grant Suddarth Terrace Ag
2016 Ryan Erdmann and Derek Nordgren Concise Research Group
2015 Thomas Frederick and Brock Smith T&B Innovations, LLC
2014 Grant Stahla Stahla Services
2013 James Verhoeff PickIt
2011 Ashley Nunnenkamp Pupkins Bakery
2010 Alex DeBrie & Michal Ritner Kid Safe-D Net
2009 Doug Fernaays IT Access
2008 Daniel Moore The Other Side Garden Center
2007 Christopher Kingsley Roundscape
2006 Heather Bittinger Great Plains Nursery
2005 Becky Deitenbeck Pampered Paws and Claws
2003 Jecek Woliek The Edmonton Tennis Center
Carly H. Grabner, Jennifer Vacek, Joel A. Masters, Dylan B. Cummings Nanny & Bompa, Inc.


Center for Entrepreneurship
HLH 315