2013 Cornell Venture Challenge: Winners and Finalists

 Johnson’s BR Venture Fund judges select winner and finalists from a record-75 highly qualified applicants

The judges knew they were in for a challenge before they even heard the pitches. Equipped only with each team’s executive summary and pitch deck, they began debating the strong points of each company over dinner the night before the competition. The finalists’ passionate, polished pitches delivered to an overcrowded room only amplified the debate. Judges excitedly pleaded the case for one company over another, and only reached consensus after prolonged deliberations and continuous impasses. All judges agreed that this was the strongest group of Cornell Venture Challenge finalists in the competition’s ten-year history.

Each year during Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration, the BR Venture Fund (BRV), Cornell University’s seed-stage venture capital fund run by Johnson MBA students, invites entrepreneurs to compete in the Cornell Venture Challenge by pitching their startup ideas and plans to judges as well as to the greater Cornell community. In addition to competing for a non-dilutive cash award, participants receive valuable, individual feedback from venture capital professionals — an opportunity that past participants consistently report as a performance-learning goldmine, unmatched in terms of long-term, real-life, and real-business takeaways. As always, multiple outside investors attended the pitches, hoping to speak with Cornell Venture Challenge participants following their presentations.

The 2013 Cornell Venture Challenge saw a 13 percent increase in applications, receiving 75 entries from Cornell-related technologies and companies. BR Venture Fund managers reviewed all 75 applications and selected five as finalists.

The five finalists, including the winner and runners-up, represent a variety of industries ranging from robotics to property management:

1st place: $25,000 prize


Founded by Brandon Wright MBA’12 and Chinedu Eleanya ’12, Cognical builds intelligent decision engines. Cogincal uses the most sophisticated deep learning algorithms in the world to find hidden and complex patterns in data that are predictive of successful outcomes. Their SaaS platform drives revenue and cost savings for industries in which execution requires recurring decisions based on imperfect data, including finance, insurance, and marketing.

2nd place: $5,000 prize and matching $5,000 from CCTEC

Empire Robotics

Founded by Bill Culley ’06, MEng ’07, MBA ’12 and John Amend PhD ’13, Empire Robotics is a Cornell University technology spinout. The company has an exclusive license to IP developed at Cornell, and is commercializing a platform robotics technology through its first product, a universal robot gripper. This gripper solves a fundamental problem in the $25B industrial automation market of gripping and manipulating varied objects. Manufacturers in food processing, automotive, consumer goods, and more are the end customers.

3rd place: $1,000 prize


Led by CEO, John Tauzel MBA’12, Oratel Diagnostics has developed the initial application of a breakthrough technology platform. The first product identifies the ideal period to inseminate dairy cattle. Using our rapid, in-field prototyping approach, we have demonstrated the ability to save farms at least $100/cow/year. Our product provides an instant, simple, cost-effective solution. The company is ready to deliver this unique product to the global dairy market. Longer-term, the technology will be extended to other livestock and human fertility issues.



HistoVision provides proprietary technology to improve existing cancer clinical pathology tests by enabling the simultaneous detection of two cancer biomarkers rather than one. Combined with copyrighted software for rapid and standardized quantification, this technology yields superior diagnostic and prognostic clinical indicators, while nearly doubling reimbursement rates for the clinical laboratory. Histovision’s CEO is Victor Fedorov.



Yorango is an online platform for posting, browsing, renting, leasing, and managing property. Yorango combines a property discovery system with a property management tool. Potential tenants can browse through listings, rent and sublet spaces, pay rent online, communicate with their landlords, and manage their space. Landlords can use Yorango to keep tabs on their properties, process maintenance requests, organize rental payments, and manage their business.