VentureCat, Northwestern's annual student startup competition, is an evolution of the Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC), which was originally introduced in 2007.
Past participants have raised millions in venture capital funding, been accepted into prestigious accelerator programs, successfully exited companies, launched new products and created jobs through their business growth. Below are some updates on VentureCat and NUVC startup founders' achievements. If you are a past participant and have an update to share on your startup, please email us.
Matt Elenjickal, FourKites
Matt Elenjickal (Kellogg ’14), founder and CEO of FourKites, won first place in the BtoB Track in NUVC 2014. FourKites offers real-time visibility, tracking, and other logistics solutions for global companies of all sizes. Since launching in 2014, the company has grown to nearly 500 employees and has hundreds of the world's most recognized brands on its platform. In March 2021, FourKites raised $100 million in Series D funding, bringing its total capital raised to more than $200 million.
Sarah Ahmad (McCormick ’18) founded HotPlate, an app that helped diners discover the best dishes at restaurants and was a semifinalist in VentureCat 2018. After graduating, Sarah moved to the Bay Area and worked as a UX engineer before continuing her entrepreneurial journey and co-foundingStable—a virtual address and mailroom for startups. Stable was part of the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch and is currently working to build their team.
Brunna Becaro Seabra, DinDin
Brunna Becaro Seabra (Kellogg ’20), co-founder of DinDin, won second place in the 2019 VentureCat finals. DinDin is changing the access to essential financial services in Brazil by facilitating financial inclusion of the unbanked and underbanked population through its B2B2C solutions. In September 2020 DinDinwas acquired by one of the largest banks in Brazil.
Ben Preston, Gearflow
Ben Preston (Kellogg ’21), co-founder ofGearflow, won the grand prize and $161,000 at VentureCat 2020. Gearflow is the first parts marketplace built for construction. In June 2021, Gearflowraised $3 million in a seed round, this brings their funding raised to date to $4.6 million.
Lucas Philips, Brewbike
Lucas Philips (SESP ’19) co-founded Brewbike at Northwestern in his freshman year. Brewbike partners with college students to launch innovative coffee concepts, and won second place in the VentureCat 2018 finals. The company has raised $4 million dollars, employs students on four campuses, has an e-commerce business and six full-time employees.
Amit Ayer, Rhaeos
Amit Ayer (Kellogg ’19), co-founder of Rhaeos, won third place in the VentureCat 2018 finals. Rhaeos has developed a noninvasive thermal sensor for use in the monitoring of ventricular shunt function. The company grew from a collaboration between material scientists and neurological surgeons at Northwestern. In the fall of 2020 Rhaeos won the MedTech Innovator Global Competition and received $350,000 in prize money, and in September 2021 the company was awarded a $4 million multi-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Akshat Thirani, Amper
Akshat Thirani (McCormick ’16), was a semifinalist in the 2016 NUVC competition with Amper—a real-time OEE tracking and analytics tool designed to help precision manufacturers elevate their factories. After graduating, Akshat continued to develop the business and Amper has raised more than $3 million in funding and has been featured in Forbes' 30 under 30 list for Manufacturing & Industry.
Sahar Jamal, Maziwa
Sahar Jamal (Kellogg ’19), founder of Maziwa, won first place in the Social Impact Track and the Audience Favorite Vote Award in VentureCat 2019. Maziwa is the only breast pump specifically designed for working mothers in developing markets. Maziwa was selected from a pool of over 2,600 applicants from 135 countries for the MIT SOLVE Class of 2020 and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded award for Maternal & Newborn Health.
Tushar Greg & Steve Lane, Flyhomes
Tushar Greg (Kellogg ’16) and Steve Lane (Kellogg & Pritzker, ’16) competed in NUVC 2015 with Triveso, which was a data company concept focused on rating homes for energy efficiency and selling that data to real estate brokerages. Soon after NUVC, Steve and Tushar pivoted their concept to develop Flyhomes, which launched in 2016 and is a real estate startup using financial innovation to back home buyers. Flyhomes closed a $150 million Series C round in June 2021, and has bought and sold more than $2.6 billion worth of homes since launching.
Alexei Mlodinow, SIA
Alexei Mlodinow, pictured, (Feinberg & Kellogg ’17) and Todd Cruikshank (Kellogg ’17) won a shared Grand Prize in NUVC 2016 with Surgical Innovation Associates (SIA). The company is developing next-generation solutions for reconstructive and aesthetic surgery that improve the surgeon and patient experience. SIA has raised more than $4 million in funding and recently announced its soft tissue support product (DuraSorb®) will be available for use in Europe and was first used in the U.S. in 2019.
Sruti Bharat, FutureMap
Sruti Bharat (Kellogg ’19), co-founder of FutureMap, won second place in the Social Impact Track in VentureCat 2019. FutureMap helps first-gen college students navigate their transition to the workforce. In 2020 FutureMap coached more than 300 students, created new job opportunities and brought in revenue-generating national partners.
Dennis Kontorovich (Kellogg ’20) Sophia Wennstedt (Kellogg & McCormick ’21) Chance Cobb (School of Communications ’20) and Thibaut Feremans ( Kellogg ’21) / VentureCat 2020 Blip - Won $100,000 in the ASU Innovation Open