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University Pitch Madness
University Pitch Madness
University Pitch Madness

The Coleman Entrepreneurship Center is the proud host of the annual University Pitch Madness competition. During the event, participating universities throughout the Midwest showcase their best student entrepreneurs, who pitch their businesses via Zoom. A panel of judges then determines the best and most innovative business idea among these universities. Students compete for a share of $10,000 in prize money.

2021 University Pitch Madness

This 2021 University Pitch Madness took place 5 to 7 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday, July 29. Congratulations to our following winners representing the participating universities:

  • First place: Alex Kosyakov, University of Illinois, winning $2,500 for his business Natrion.
  • Second place: Holly Bennett and Blake Espeland, The University of Iowa, winning $1,500 for their business Sprayer Mods.
  • Third place (tied among three teams): Jake Roach and Brendan Wang, Michigan State University for their business CAPNOS; Patrick McInerney and Sam Kalenowski, Illinois Institute of Technology, for their business Phyesta Simulations; and Ryan Choi and Nathan Sattah, University of Chicago, for their business Bridges LLC. Each team won $750 in prize money.

The remaining teams from DePaul University, Northwestern University, Marquette University and Washington University in St. Louis each won $500 for their tremendous business ideas.

Watch the full event on YouTube

Competition Judges

Colleen Egan

Colleen Egan

President and CEO
Illinois Science and Technology Coalition and Institute

Colleen Egan is the first female CEO of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, which supports the innovation economy of Illinois through data, advocacy and policy, innovation programming, and STEM education. Egan is a serial entrepreneur, founder and C-Suite executive having led companies that include 212 Degrees, Zula USA, Tiger Puppet Studios, Akoo and MyBestRx. Egan is also a founding member of DePaul's Women in Entrepreneurship Institute.

Troy Henikoff

Troy Henikoff

Managing Director
MATH Venture Partners

Troy Henikoff is an active mentor with Techstars and is the co-founder of Excelerate Labs, which became Techstars Chicago in 2013. He also helps manage the FireStarter Fund, teaches entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business and is on the board of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. Henikoff was previously the CEO of, president of Amacai, and co-founder and CEO of Henikoff built the technology for Jellyvision and served as president of Systemetrics.


Lisa Laws

Lisa Laws

Chief Operating Officer

Lisa Laws is a proven practical and motivational team player who enjoys brainstorming and coordinating efforts to achieve a common goal.

Laws began her career at James McHugh Construction Company as assistant project manager in 2006, then URS Corporation as a graduate structural engineer in 2008. Laws has also held a number of positions for the City of Chicago, including deputy chief operating officer for the Departments of Transportation, Water and Streets & Sanitation. She also served as first deputy commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events before quickly pivoting to acting chief of resource management for the Chicago’s COVID-19 operations team.

Jacqueline O. Nyenke

Jacqueline O. Nyenke

K&L Gates LLP

Jacqueline O. Nyenke is an attorney who counsels emerging growth companies, venture capital investors and private corporations on corporate financing and M&A transactions. Nyenke has counseled companies in diverse industries including medical device, financial technology, clean technology and cybersecurity. She has also counseled on cross-border transactions in India, Nigeria, Portugal and Hong Kong.


Student Teams

We were thrilled to host the following student entrepreneurs from the nine Midwest universities that competed in the 2021 University Pitch Madness competition.

DePaul University

Team Captain: Drake Burciaga
Startup: helps drivers find parking instantly by pairing a patent pending artificial intelligence algorithm with cameras.

Illinois Institute of Technology

Team Captain: Patrick McInerney
Team Member: Sam Kalenowski
Startup: Phyesta Simulations LLC is an innovative, virtual physics lab simulator that strives to bring STEM education into the 21st century.

Marquette University

Team Captain: Erin Nugent
Startup: Nugeni is the world's first sustainable modular boot design.

Michigan State University

Team Captain: Brendan Wang
Team Member: Jake Roach
Startup: CAPNOS aims to help people quit vaping with the Zero, a flavored air pressurizer with zero smoke, zero nicotine and a full experience.

Northwestern University

Team Captain: Ana Cornell
Team Member: Kate Conner
Startup: Acorn Genetics builds at-home DNA testing kits, giving clients access to their genetic information in a private, affordable and timely manner.

University of Chicago

Team Captain: Hayton Oei
Team Member: Juvencio Maeztu
Startup: STIX Financial is the first stock-currency payment platform that allows users to make payments by selling fractional shares or borrowing against their personal investment portfolio.

University of Iowa

Team Captain: Holly Bennett
Team Member: Blake Espeland
Startup: Sprayer Mods provide agricultural sprayer attachments that allow farmers to only spray weeds.

University of Illinois

Team Captain: Alex Kosyakov
Startup: Natrion offers safe, high-performance batteries for mass-market renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Washington University in St. Louis

Team Captain: William Gozlan
Team Member: Arman Serpen
Startup: Integra Medical Solutions offers a simple, medically accurate and cost-effective EKG solution that leverages modern technology for a better world. By leveraging the cloud, medical providers use the device to record EKGs. Then, the system takes care of the rest, as it connects with doctors to provide world-class results. The outcome is a remarkable improvement in patient diagnosis and care while reducing the hassle of overhead.
LinkedIn: Integra Medical Solutions International

Contact Us

Questions about University Pitch Madness? Contact us at:

Phone: (312) 362-8625