IRVINE, CA-University of California, Irvine (UCI)– Ten finalist teams gathered Friday, June 3, at UCI for the Stella Zhang New Venture Competition (SZNVC) Grand Finale to compete for $100,000 in cash prizes.
The competition was open to UCI students, faculty, and staff. After 7 long months of rounds and pitches, the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business hosted the dynamic final event.
The event namesake herself is a UCI alum (FEMBA ’05) and partner of Sunstone Management, a venture capital firm that focuses on diverse early-stage entrepreneurs.
Teams were divided into five tracks – Business Products and Services, Consumer Products, Consumer Services, Life Science, Social Enterprise. Two hours of pitches and judge deliberations later, Stella awarded the first-place winner of each track with a $10,000 check. Each second-place winner won $5,000. The overall Grand Prize winner received an additional $20,000 and the Runner-up $5,000.
Grand Prize winner Noveil won with their innovative dating app. Targeted towards Gen Z college students, Noveil has a proprietary matchmaking algorithm, video component, and icebreakers. Explained the team, “Right now, dating is like buying a pair of pants online. It looks good but not in person. Noveil, however, puts personality first.” The startup also showcased happy couple Kelsey and Joseph, a direct result of Noveil’s beta launch.
Runner-up Enjovu Paper presented a novel approach to sustainability with their poop-to-paper product. Their process for creating paper from elephant poop would decrease the environmental impact of traditional paper production while raising awareness for endangered elephants across the world.
Dean Ian Williamson congratulated all the hard-working teams and thanked Sunstone founding partners Stella and John Shen for being committed to the university.
“Students take you places you never envisioned,” added the Dean. “Every team had a journey with no idea how far you were able to come. It’s hard to believe the quality – the passion – that all came together in a short amount of time, inspiring us to what’s possible.”
Said Stella on coming full circle from UCI student to venture capital extraordinaire – “It feels so good to be home.”
- Grand Prize: Noveil
- Runner-up: Enjovu Paper
- Business Products and Services: 1st Nutripair, 2nd EmpowerMi
- Consumer Products: 1st HAI, 2nd Gale Gauge
- Consumer Services: 1st Noveil, 2nd SnapHealth
- Life Sciences: 1st forMED Technologies, 2nd Sayenza Biosciences
- Social Enterprise: 1st Blue Aqua Food Tech, 2nd Enjovu Paper
About Sunstone Management: A Financial Times (FT) Americas’ Fastest Growing Company
Sunstone Management, with the Sunstone Venture Capital Fund, is a diversified private capital firm located in Southern California that invests in diverse early-stage technology entrepreneurs who demonstrate the promise to build great companies. We believe in the aspirational power of southern California to attract and inspire the most sophisticated investors and the most ambitious entrepreneurs in the world. We deliver new and exciting opportunities for economic growth through the creation of innovative public-private-partnerships, and our unique experience across government, education, and private sectors.
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