Naperville North grad wins Cozad Competition award
By Jane Donahue For The Sun July 8, 2011 2:32PM
Zach Tratar, 21, of Naperville, recently won first place in the Cozad New Venture Competition at University of Illinois. Submitted.
On the web
To learn more about Zach Tratar’s winning idea, visit www.contendable.com
Updated: October 29, 2011 12:41AM
Zach Tratar, a senior at the University of Illinois, isn’t waiting for a degree to start dabbling in the business world. The 2008 Naperville North graduate was recognized for his business savvy at the 2011 Cozad New Venture Competition.
“Cozad was an incredibly valuable experience for my team,” said Tratar, 21. “Entrepreneurship — especially tech startups — needs to gain traction. Getting the product in front of customers and potential investors and having them love it, is amazing. It confirms that everything you’ve done is worth it and gives you confidence to push forward.”
The Cozad New Venture Competition, in its 11th year, is “designed to encourage students, researchers, and community members to create new sustainable businesses in the Champaign-Urbana area. University of Illinois students are tasked with creating a business plan around a topic of their choice. Assistance is available in the form of mentors, workshops and courses to guide teams through the phases of business plan creation.
This year, 55 teams entered the competition, with six advancing to the finals. Tratar’s team Contendable, which he co-founded with student Jason Febery, tied for first place along with winning Best Venture Pitch.
“Zach Tratar and Jason Febery’s passion for their start-up, Contendable, was truly inspiring to see at this year’s Cozad New Venture Competition,” said Danyelle Michelini, marketing specialist of the Technology Entrepreneur Center. “The team shared first place with a company working on solar panels and both have really topped the charts in their growth since the competition.”
Tratar won more than $15,000 in cash and prizes for Contendable, which he describes as “an online show-and-tell.” Since winning, they have hired two additional team members and hope to have a “release-ready” product available by the end of summer.
“It’s a platform for universities and businesses to host competitions and contests,” Tratar said. “As people enter contests, they are effectively creating interesting content that they can choose to show others. The coolest part is the personalization we offer. If you love graphic design, we’ll show you what other graphic designers are working on globally and in your own community.”
Besides prizes, Tratar said the win at Cozad admitted the team to the Illinois Launch program, a startup accelerator sponsored by the university.
“We were admitted to the wonderful Illinois Launch program, a startup accelerator sponsored by the University of Illinois and Kauffman Foundation,” he said. “We have been refining our idea, developing the technical side, and pitching it to potential investors. The influx of feedback from this process has been absolutely invaluable and has led us to make many great changes to our product’s design.”