Following the bracket-busting excitement of March Madness, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its own high-stakes tournament through the New Venture Competition, a business plan pitch contest. With more than 40 student teams representing seven different colleges at Nebraska competing in a bracket format, the team presentation for Dyslexico took first place and a $15,000 cash prize.
Dyslexico is a software company that provides people with the learning disability dyslexia the tools they need to navigate a world not made for them through dynamic machine learning-powered spelling and grammar corrections. Currently in beta testing, Dyslexico team members include Grace Clausen, Tristan Curd, and Bridget Peterkin, all senior computer science majors from Omaha; and Schadrack Shumbusho, senior integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda.
“Our overall vision is making an impact on the lives of dyslexic people everywhere. We know how big of a problem that this is, and we know that through the help we received in this competition, we can really make an impact,” Clausen said. “I'm just beyond happy for the team and everything we've achieved.”
Dyslexico and the other top four teams will be considered for further investment of up to $25,000 from the Husker Venture Fund, a student-led venture fund in the College of Business. The benefits of participating in the competition do not stop with startup funding.
“The New Venture Competition provides student entrepreneurs an amazing experiential learning opportunity that requires them to demonstrate creativity, business acumen, critical thinking and communication skills. The competition also enables students to expand their network by interacting with multiple competitors and judges,” said Samuel Nelson, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management.
This year's judges included John Wirtz, '05 & '06, chief product officer and co-founder of Hudl. He volunteers his time judging the competition after seeing the benefits firsthand as a competitor with Agile Sports Technology, which eventually became Hudl, a globally recognized sports technology company headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska.
“We got great advice and amazing networking from the New Venture Competition. We connected with people in the community that helped us on the finance and marketing side, as well as people who helped us think about how we would start building out a sales effort, having never sold before,” said Wirtz.
Like Wirtz, multiple former competitors now run businesses originally pitched in New Venture, such as Stahla Services, Nobl, Pawlytics, Oak Barn Beef and others. Nelson noted the economic impact this competition can have.
“The very first winner was Bill Champion, ('89), who runs Venel, an orthopedic marketing company, that is a version of the company he pitched in 1987. These businesses create jobs and generate economic activity within the local economy,” he said. “Nine of the Launch LNK grant recipients also competed in the New Venture Competition, so it is a great place to get traction on your business.”
As a campus hub for all things entrepreneurship, the Nebraska Center for Entrepreneurship hosts workshops and one-on-one startup counseling and connects students to entrepreneurial mentors. Students like Langdon Kohn, senior management major from North Platte, Nebraska, leveraged the center to help develop his business plan and prepare for the competition.
“Everybody in the center is different in their own unique way, and it plays out very well in a chorus of different voices. Each of them helped me hone my business idea, implement some of the more strategic parts of the business and put it into practice, and make sure I'm headed in the right direction,” he said.
Winners of the competition and their businesses included:
Grand Prize ($15,000): Grace Clausen, senior computer science major from Omaha; Tristan Curd, computer science major from Omaha; Bridget Peterkin, senior computer science major from Omaha; and Schadrack Shumbusho, integrated science major from Kigali, Rwanda. Dyslexico is a software company that provides people with the learning disability dyslexia the tools they need to navigate a world not made for them through dynamic machine learning-powered spelling and grammar corrections.
Second Place ($12,500): Tan Phan, junior management and mathematics major from Lincoln; Pranav Rajan, senior management major from Lincoln. InforMedic is an InsureTech startup that revolutionizes the life insurance underwriting process by summarizing medical records and automating the rate classification process. They also are applying the technology to the annuity, LTC and disability space.
Third Place ($10,000): Maci Wilson, senior computer science major from Omaha. Beacon is an autonomous drone system that makes the bridge inspection process more efficient and safer.
Fourth Place ($7,500): Abby Miller, senior animal science major from Mead, Nebraska. Pat on Tap is a mobile bar and photo booth to serve all types of gatherings in Omaha, Lincoln and surrounding areas.
Thomas G. Guy Startup Team Awards ($5,000 per team), awarded to the teams that display the best organization and collaboration:
Published: April 11, 2023
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