Top Cash Prize Goes to NVC Survivor

PROVO, Utah – Apr 17, 2017 – Eight entrepreneurs entered the waters at this year’s Shark Tank-themed New Venture Challenge. There was only one survivor.

After presenting to five judges, Lee Chang, a strategy senior from Sedona, Arizona, and his company, Venga, came out with $22,000 in cash as this year’s winner of the NVC, sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.

Chang baited the audience with free t-shirts, clever commercials, and an enticingly practical app for renters and landlords. Through the app, property owners can create a profile with listings, photos, and set filters that include only renters who fit their criteria. Renters then scroll through the properties, swiping left to reject and right to accept. When a renter and a landlord match, they can message each other via in-app messaging.

“Winning tonight came with a balance between confidence and humility,” Chang says. “You see all your hard work pay off, but at the same time you realize how far you have to go and how small you are.”

In addition to the $15,000 awarded to each of the eight finalists, Chang won $5,000 for Founder’s Choice and $2,000 for Crowd Favorite.

Several finalists—Dentium Club, Okular Technologies, and Rubi (formerly named Sweet Heart)—each competed previously in the Business Model Competition. Other finalists included Trash Talk, a technology that sensors whether a trash bin is empty or not, increasing pickup efficiency; Neiybor, the “Uber-version” of renting storage space; Torque AI, a technology that helps predict when your car needs maintenance; and Omniearth, a fertilizer made from specially bred and fed worms. 

“You can see that the students at BYU are very innovative and have a good program that allows them access to mentors and early capital,” says Scott Peterson, Rollins Center Founder and CEO of Omadi. “It allows them to learn the right way to start a company so they don’t lose capital. There are few places on the planet where you get all of these things right out of the gate.”

To match these innovative minds, the Rollins Center made sure to put the “challenge” in this year’s NVC competition. Competitors had five minutes to pitch their businesses in front of successful CEOs such as Jeremy Andrus of the popular Traeger Grills, and Susan Peterson of Freshly Picked, the fastest-growing woman-owned company in Utah. 

“The NVC pushed me and helped me to prepare and advance my business,” says Matt Little, Trash Talk CEO and a mechanical engineering senior from Orem, Utah. “I learned so much in preparation for this. The Rollins Center has changed my entire BYU experience, my life, and my career. It has given me this opportunity to start a business and be successful with it.”

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First place winner Lee Chang presents at the New Venture Challenge.
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NVC judges (left to right): Susan Peterson, Erika Wilde, Gavin Christensen, Jeremy Andrus, and David Royce.
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Trash Talk representatives speak to an overflow crowd at the New Venture Challenge.

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Heidi Zundel