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McCormick, Farley Center Students Produce Strong Showings at VentureCat

The top three finishers all had ties to Northwestern Engineering or Farley

Students associated with Northwestern Engineering or the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation took home the biggest prizes at the annual VentureCat competition, held May 22 in the Kellogg Global Hub’s White Auditorium.

Rudy Arora, a student at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences who has taken Farley Center courses, is the founder and CEO of Turbolearn AI, which won the competition’s grand prize and came away with $100,000 at the public showcase. Turbolearn AI enables users to leave lectures with a study guide generated by artificial intelligence.

SteadyScrib, founded by Izzy Mokotoff and Alexis Chan, won second place and the Audience Favorite prize, earning $51,000. Mokotoff is a fourth-year student at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, and has a Farley minor along with a design certificate from the Segal Design Institute. Chan is a fourth-year student majoring in biomedical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering.

A team led by Scott Tsangeos, founder and CEO of Olympus, took third place and $25,000 after qualifying for the finals as a wildcard. Olympus is a digital platform for coaches and athletes to track, analyze, and manage their strength-based workouts. Tsangeos is a student in the MMM Program. His team behind Olympus includes Matthew Chang (computer science), Mia Scarpati (computer science, statistics), Madi Bunker (MMM), and Jiaxin “Joyce” Yi (Medill).

From left to right: Scott Tsangeos, Rudy Arora, Izzy Mokotoff, Alexis Chan

“The breadth of exciting innovation showcased at VentureCat this year was exemplified by the diverse problems the two top winners are seeking to solve — an AI-driven, edtech startup designed to make classroom learning more accessible, and a physical writing tool created to help people with Parkinson’s,” said Hayes Ferguson, director of the Farley Center. “I am delighted that the founders of these two companies have ties to the Farley Center.” 

VentureCat is an annual University-wide pitch competition and collaborative program supported by the Farley Center, Kellogg School of Management, the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center, and The Garage at Northwestern. Northwestern student-founded ventures compete across five industry tracks for a non-dilutive prize pool of more than $175,000. Final winners were selected by a panel of venture capital and startup experts, including Northwestern Engineering alum Tim Stojka (’89), CEO at Nexus3Capital and a member of the McCormick Advisory Council and member of the Farley advisory board.

The event was co-hosted Charlotte Oxnam ('23), a member of the Farley advisory board, Farley alum, and winner of the 2023 VentureCat competition; and Ben Preston (MBA '21), who won VentureCat in 2020.

“The 25 semifinalists selected to participate in VentureCat each year represent the culmination of the many layers of entrepreneurial resources, courses, and programming available to students from across Northwestern,” said Mike Raab, executive director of The Garage at Northwestern. “Unlike traditional business plan competitions, VentureCat selects and supports Northwestern student founders that have moved beyond the initial idea phase and onto developing a product or service that meets a validated market need.”

View the full list of VentureCat winners at The Garage at Northwestern website.