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Winners of student entrepreneurship competition, seed grants announced

December 15, 2011

Winners of the Whiteboard Challenge and Student Venture Seed Grants show that entrepreneurship is thriving among University of Wisconsin–Madison students.

The programs, run by the UW–Madison Office of Corporate Relations and the Wiscontrepreneur program help encourage students to become involved in entrepreneurship.

Graphic: Wiscontrepreneur logo


Ten UW–Madison students competed for $600 in last month’s Whiteboard Challenge. The competition gave competitors five minutes and the use of a whiteboard to present innovative technology concepts, novel solutions to known problems, new business propositions, or other unique ideas to a panel of five local business owners judging the competition.

Taking first place was Eli Sonkin, a junior majoring in finance, investment and banking, who presented a vegetarian shoes market opportunity.

Two teams tied for second-place. Kendra Hill, a graduate student studying brand and product management, presented an early-stage company business proposition for an online competition database. Jason Chiang, a graduate student studying biomedical engineering, presented an innovative technology concept for a tumor-specific microwave ablation applicator.

In addition, the fall 2011 Student Venture Seed Grant recipients were announced. The program focuses on helping students pursue new ventures; passionate student entrepreneurs had the opportunity to apply for grants of up to $3,000 as a resource to help them further their business-related ideas.

The Student Venture Seed Grants are sponsored by the UW–Madison Office of the Chancellor.

This program is intended to build student entrepreneurial skills and confidence by encouraging formation and development of viable businesses or non-profit organizations by UW–Madison students who seek to convert their passions and ideas into sustainable ventures.

The winners are:

Will Garland, an undergraduate student majoring in entrepreneurship and life science marketing.  Frustrated by the way education is funded and the flaws in the way scholarships are given out, he explored ways these processes could be improved with the use of technology and the leveraging of social networking tools.  His company, StudentBoat, LLC, is an online platform for motivated students to create their own source for scholarship funds by showcasing their backgrounds and goals to potential supporters.

Kendra Hill, the same graduate student who took second-place in the Whiteboard Challenge. As a coordinator for cheer and dance events for eight years, she sought a more efficient and less time-consuming way to organize these types of events.  Her company,, is an online cheer and dance competition database that makes organizing competitions simpler and faster by digitizing the spirit event planning process.

Sean Kelly, an undergraduate majoring in neurobiology, Tyler Phil, an undergraduate majoring in economics, Kiernan McGowan, an undergraduate majoring in electrical engineering, and Martin Clarke, an undergraduate majoring in finance and economics are the management team for The Longboard Sling, LLC.  During the Schoof’s Innovation Days Competition in February 2011, team members identified the need for an easier, more convenient way of transporting their longboards and developed the Longboard Sling, a device designed for convenient hands-free transportation of a longboard skateboard when not in use.