The Burgess New Venture Challengetoday announces the fifteen semifinalist teams selected to compete in its third annual contest. On April 1, 2021, the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will host the early-stage pitch competition in a virtual setting. The annual competition highlights top student entrepreneurs and celebrates Michigan State University’s growing venture creation ecosystem. 

The Burgess New Venture Challenge is more than a competition,” said Ken Szymusiak, managing director of academic programs for the Burgess Institute. “This is high-stakes experiential learning. These fifteen semifinalists must prove their ideas are viable; the market demands their solutions; and, ultimately, that their value propositions hold up to scrutiny.”  

This year’s BNVC semifinalists will pitch their ideas during a private, virtual session on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. With only five finalist slots available, student venturers will need to convince a panel of expert judges they have what it takes to compete for the $40,000 in total cash prizes. 

BNVC requires student applicants to be competition-ready: To qualify to compete, students must enroll in the Burgess Institute’s intensive Launch program, collect feedback about their ideas from potential customers as well as business leaders and venture coaches, and form collaborative teams around their submitted ideas. 

“We wanted to create a competition that supports student venturers from concept to pitch,” said Paul Jaques, managing director of venture creation for the Burgess Institute. “The BNVC experience ensures students are thinking critically about their ideas. They spend time refining and derisking. They are building skills through action: market research, customer discovery, supply chain — these are essential skills that bring value to their futures, whether they pursue their startups or join established firms and innovate from within. 

Burgess New Venture Challenge Semifinalists

2021’s Burgess New Venture Challenge semifinalist applicants represent six colleges and over a dozen disciplines of studyHere are this year’s semifinalists: 

Auxin Games

Applicant: Angelos (Rhys) Gogonis ( of Natural Science 

Auxin Games designs & develops learning games, which teach STEM concepts such as biology, for organizations that seek better ways to engage, communicate with, or recruit students.  

Branching Out

Applicant: Avery Tilley ( of Agriculture & Natural Resources 

Branching Out’s customizable, grafted fruit trees are the solution for your average houseplants. Branching Out: a supplier of fully customizable, grafted fruit trees yielding sustainable, organic peaches, plums, cherries, and more all from the same tree that is growing comfortably in your living room.  


Applicant: Brendan Wang ( Broad College of Business 

CAPNOS is on a mission to prevent lung diseases and save lives with the CAPNOS® Zero, a better, cleaner alternative to vaping that addresses behavioral addiction with zero smoke, zero nicotine, and zero charge.  


Applicant: Gavin Hubbard ( Broad College of Business 

Catch is a virtual networking platform, designed to facilitate more effective and efficient networking among attendees at virtual events. Attendees can view, connect, and interact with others who are at the same virtual event, making networking as seamless and close to normal as possible.

Chalk Talk

Applicant: Mathew Forgacs ( Broad College of Business 

Chalk Talk makes reading easy and quick. A mobile app to read sections of text as short, separated, and digitized posts. 


Applicant: Eric Klinefelter ( of Engineering 

At CLIFTN, we engineer, design and manufacture light electric bikes. Most trips in the U.S. are 5 miles or less, and our lightweight electric bikes are a perfect fit. 

GrandStand Music Festival

Applicant: Kayla Green ( of Music 

GrandStand Music Festival takes a stand against human trafficking by raising awareness and support through dynamic, educational music events.  


Applicant: Cory Eisenhard ( Broad College of Business 

Groupi is Crowdsourcing Social Media. A social media app with customizable and reusable tools for groups and businesses. 

INFKNIT Apparel, Inc.

Applicant: Jackie Smythe ( Broad College of Business 

INFKNIT creates sustainable, versatile apparel that combats negative environmental impacts, designed for the conscious consumer.  

Intertwined Entertainment

Applicant: Joshua May ( of Communication Arts & Sciences 

Intertwined Entertainment is a creative solutions company that specializes in music, production, and marketing services. Artists come to us for all their creative needs. 

Kraze Cases

Applicant: Mouna Zarghami ( of Communication Arts & Sciences 

Kraze Cases is an online phone case business providing customers with durable and fashionable phone covers at a low cost. 


Applicant: Jacqueline Maggioncalda ( of Communication Arts & Sciences 

MEND UP is a recycled fashion lifestyle box and community that supports our planet and your style. MEND UP counters dieting culture, vanity clothing sizing, and clothing waste. 

Picture It Staging

Applicant: James Hamer ( Broad College of Business 

Picture It’s high-quality virtual staging services helps real estate agents sell homes faster and for more money. With the majority of homebuyers starting their searches online, the first impression is everything. Vacant or outdated photos won’t do.

Applicant: Raghunath Reddy Koilakonda ( Broad College of Business 

TheFrameKart is one of the fastest-growing multinational online eyewear retailers, offering a variety of both high-quality precision designer and in-house brands. 

Vital Education to Improve Lives (VEIL)

Applicant: Tiauna West ( Broad College of Business 

VEIL provides resources, education, and support to members of disadvantaged and underserved communities.  

The Burgess New Venture Challengepromotes entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation at Michigan State University. The competition identifies strong Spartan startups, provides mentorship and team development workshops, and culminates in a year-end showcase event. This year’s virtual event launches April 1, 2021. Find out more at or register for the event here.