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HUG Solutions, a startup company developing cold chain transportation technology to help rural communities access mRNA vaccines, walked away from the University of Colorado’s New Venture Challenge as champions, banking $30,000 in cash prizes and a $25,000 investment offer.

“We’ve all put in so much work this semester, and I couldn’t be prouder,” HUG Solutions Braydon Shelley said, thanking his partners and NVC mentors.

The first-place prize at the NV finals was the second prize this year for HUG Solutions, which also won second and $3,000 last month in the specialty Impact Prize category, given to companies making a difference in society or the environment.

Chembotix, a company developing a robotic automation platform to dramatically speed up chemistry research and development, was crowned Audience Choice and awarded $1,000.

Here’s how judges Sherisse Hawkins, Jason Mendelson, Faran Nouri and Laura Pinnie ranked the remaining six finalists:

  • 2nd place: Sarus, a heavy equipment control systems safety company, won $21,000 and a $25,000 investment offer.
  • 3rd place: ToobTek, maker of a fiber-optic intubation training device, won $16,000.
  • 4th place: Seedling Biosystems, a producer of valuable small molecules and proteins in plants, received $13,000.
  • 5th place (tie): Orbital Biodesign, synthetic muscle sleeve intended to prevent and treat lower extremity venous insufficiency and varicose veins, and LGBT50, an agency that manages LGBTQ+ influencers on TikTok and Instagram, each received $10,000.

Brad Bernthal, director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at CU’s Silicon Flatirons Center, said he was particularly proud of this cohort’s resilience as “CU and the Boulder community are still reeling from multiple blows.”

The NVC participants leaned on one another and their mentors to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and the King Soopers mass shooting, he said.

“This is the most important year in the history of the New Venture Challenge,” he said.

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