Research Foundation News

April 23, 2024

Purdue Innovates Incubator awards $18,500 in cash prizes to Purdue student entrepreneurs

New Venture Challenge programming and competition prepare student-led startups for market entry and fundraising 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Startup companies led by Purdue University students received a combined $18,500 in cash prizes during the April 18 finals of the New Venture Challenge, a program led by Purdue Innovates Incubator.

Justin Renfrow, Incubator director, said participating startups also included students from other universities and Purdue researchers. They crafted a solid value proposition, developed their go-to-market strategy, built out a finance model and more during workshops in late March and early April. 

“By taking part in the New Venture Challenge, Purdue students and their colleagues have strengthened their commitment to entrepreneurship and bringing solutions to worldwide challenges to the marketplace,” Renfrow said.

Submissions for the 2025 New Venture Challenge will begin in January 2025.

Winning teams

The 2024 New Venture Challenge began with 27 startups applying to the program. Five finalists had five minutes to pitch their companies to investors at the Purdue Innovates Startup and Technology Expo held in the Purdue Memorial Union.

First prize and $10,000 went to Emboa Medical, which has developed a novel stroke-treatment catheter for surgeons to increase successful blood clot removal rates in the first attempt and improve patient health outcomes. Emboa Medical also won the Crowd Favorite prize and $1,000. Team members include Ángel Enríquez, College of Engineering, and Sergio Ruiz, College of Engineering and Graduate School.

“Emboa Medical is finalizing the prototype development stage and gearing toward a pivotal preclinical animal study with a works-like/looks-like prototype of our patent-pending catheter. The $11,000 prize will be used toward efforts in the manufacturing and design optimization of our device,” Enríquez said. “The New Venture Challenge and the Purdue Innovates workshops have provided Emboa with a solid foundation. After participating in the Firestarter and Market Readiness programs, our company felt prepared to showcase our technology and deliver a strong pitch. We are grateful and appreciative of the community Purdue Innovates has created to support its startups.” 

Second place and $5,000 were awarded to uChef, a mobile app that offers students the ability to automatically generate personalized meal plans tailored to their budget and culinary preferences, complete with authentic recipes. Team members are Arnaldo Castillo and Luis Paz, both in the Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business.

“UChef is in current development with plans to launch to the market by May 2024. With this prize money, we will have more money for development, adding features as we adapt to the market after launching,” Paz said. “We have previously worked with Purdue Innovates, but during these three workshops they taught us how to do a more concise pitch deck and executive summary, which is really valuable for investors. We met great people at the expo who were interested in our startup, and we will continue to work hard in the future to make uChef the best app in the market for international meal planning.” 

Third place and $2,500 were awarded to Maytik, a tech-integrated makeup palette that utilizes haptic and audio feedback to allow blind and visually impaired users to independently differentiate and apply different shades of eye shadow. Team members are Sejal Verma, College of Science, and Shreya Rathi, The Ohio State University.

“Currently, Maytik’s prototype is larger than a regular makeup palette. We will use the prize money to further develop it; by reducing its form factor, the product will be more user-friendly,” Verma said. “The New Ventures Challenge workshops were educational and informative and allowed me to develop a community of peers that share a like-minded interest.”

Two other companies pitched to investors during the finals: 

  • Antinex, which has devised a novel surgical procedure and surgical tools to permanently relieve facet-induced chronic lower back pain through a minimally invasive procedure. Team members are Cameron Mostoufi, Agathiya Tharun and Jacob Whitehouse, College of Engineering.
  • Money Monkey, a gamified financial literacy application designed for young learners aged 8-18. The engaging application offers a captivating journey through the world of finance. Team members are Shri Atluri and Kestan Kamei, College of Science.

Honor roll of finalists

Five other companies exhibited during the Startup and Technology Expo:

  • Biome: Vikranth Gadi, College of Engineering and Graduate School
  • BookingsU: Rithwik Erabelly, College of Engineering, and Pradyun Kamaraju, College of Science
  • Bloom Technologies: Aditya Naidu, College of Science
  • OpenSpaces: Nihal Gunukula and Vinay Gupta, College of Science
  • Sonder: Liam Kauffman, John Stanwick and Alexander Zimbalist, College of Engineering; and Hamza Shaikh, College of Science 

About Purdue Innovates Incubator

Purdue Innovates Incubator is the front door to the rich ecosystem of programs and services designed to help early-stage startups take their next step. Programs provide settings for cohort work and one-on-one consultations with entrepreneurs-in-residence. Content includes clarifying problems from the customer’s perspective, developing a business model, conducting customer discovery interviews, team building, determining regulatory pathways and legal structures, and more. Purdue alumni and community members interested in becoming mentors are invited to contact the Purdue Incubator team.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a public research institution demonstrating excellence at scale. Ranked among top 10 public universities and with two colleges in the top four in the United States, Purdue discovers and disseminates knowledge with a quality and at a scale second to none. More than 105,000 students study at Purdue across modalities and locations, including nearly 50,000 in person on the West Lafayette campus. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue’s main campus has frozen tuition 13 years in a row. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap — including its first comprehensive urban campus in Indianapolis, the new Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. School of Business, and Purdue Computes — at

Writer/Media contact: Steve Martin,

Source: Justin Renfrow,

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