Student Voice


May 21, 2024


Two UWRF teams move on to Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament

March 25, 2015

The first and second place finishers in the inaugural New Venture Competition at UW-River Falls have qualified to compete in the Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament (WBIT) April 11 in Madison, Wisconsin.

The New Venture Competition provided student teams, mentored by a faculty member, the opportunity to present their ideas for new business start-ups to a panel of judges composed of entrepreneurs and economic development specialists. The top three teams will receive a cash prize and funds to put towards their new businesses.

The WBIT is an entrepreneurship event open to undergraduates attending any two- or four-year UW System school across the state (except UW-Madison). It teaches cutting-edge Lean Startup business development tools, provides business mentorship, and allows participants to compete in a fun format for paid internships and a chance to win $25,000.

The first place team in the New Venture Competition was SōPOD, a start-up developing pod technology that will allow travelers to carry body wash, shampoo, and conditioners in carry-on luggage while avoiding TSA 3-1-1 restrictions.

SōPOD team members are: Eric Wenz, a senior from Hudson, Wisconsin, majoring in business administration; Andrew Lind, a senior from Bloomington, Minnesota, majoring in business administration; and An Trieu, a junior from St. Paul, Minnesota, majoring in chemistry.

The second place team was Charg-e Inc., whose first-generation product is a portable power bank with inductive charging for mobile devices. Charg-e Inc. team members are: Jiaxin Li, a senior from River Falls majoring in business administration; Christopher Hansen, a post-baccalaureate student from River Falls studying biology; and Thomas Makens a senior from Winona, Minnesota, majoring in chemistry.

Operating costs of the New Venture Competition, including travel to the WBIT, and the business start-up funds for the top three teams are provided by the WiSys Technology Foundation, Inc. and UW Extension, organizers of the WBIT. Cash prizes are sponsored by Fiberstar, Inc.

More information on the New Venture Competition is available at Additional details on the WBIT may be found at