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Winners of the 2019 Lab Venture Challenge in Boulder

Banner image for Lab Venture Challenge 2019
Credit: University of Colorado Boulder

On November 12-13, 2019, Venture Partners at CU Boulder hosted the 2019 Lab Venture Challenge. Think Shark Tank! Eleven entrepreneurs pitched their product to six seasoned venture capitalists for a chance to win $125,000 to advance the commercialization of their product. The driving force behind the challenge was to boost Colorado’s economy by financially supporting promising laboratory research work that has the potential to be commercialized. One venture capitalist stated that he was looking for a solid product that solves a problem and has existing partners.

The rules are simple:

  • each contestant has 10 minutes to “sell” their product to the venture capitalists serving as judges
  • the product must be in the bioscience, engineering, or physical science fields

Additionally, two contestants, one from each category, receives an audience choice award in the amount of $1,000.

The lucky winners in the bioscience field were:

  • Sara Sawyer: SickStick: A Saliva-Based Test for Infections (also won the audience choice award)
  • Roy Parker: Exocure Therapeutics
  • Xuedong Liu: Programmable Gectosomes for Delivery of Therapeutic
  • Rafael Piestum: Ultrathin Endoscopes

And in the physical science field:

  • Alireza Vahid: Next Generation Wireless Systems Antenna
  • Zach Newman: Octave Photonics: A Tantala Photonic Platform (NIST post-doctoral associate)
  • Ivan Smalyukh: iFeather: Transparent Aerogels for Solar Heating and Greenhouse Gas Applications (also won the audience choice award)


Released November 20, 2019, Updated February 19, 2020