Student venture competition winners
Monday, May 3, 2021

The 2021 John Pappajohn Student Entrepreneurial Venture Competition was held virtually with 13 students advancing to the final presentation round, where plans were reviewed by John Pappajohn and his team.  Student entrepreneurs entering the competition came from Drake University, Iowa State University, North Iowa Area Community College, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.  The following businesses emerged as winners of this year’s competition, with each venture receiving $5,000. 

  • Thuy Nguyen, founder of Optic Origin, University of Iowa.  Optic Origin provides vision correction to underserved communities through an intelligently prescription match platform.
  • Mason Weh, founder of Mentoring for Change, Iowa State UniversityMentoring for Change aims to mentor disadvantaged youth ages 15-19 through sports and art to help them reach their full potential.
  • Anthony Piscopo, Hawkeye Surgical Lighting, University of Iowa.  Hawkeye Surgical Lighting has developed a light worn by surgeons that lights up tumors during a surgical procedure. 

Other finalists, each receiving $500, included Raymond Schmidt and Dillon Jensen (Iowa State University); Holly Bennett (University of Iowa); Maddie Palmersheim, Emma Slagle, and Isaac Hackman (University of Northern Iowa); Emily Hedgecock, Rachel Payton, and Ryan Johnston (Drake University); and McKelery Robertson (NIACC).

“Over the years, John Pappajohn has generously contributed more than $450,000 in prizes for this competition since the first award in 2000.  John’s focus on generating support for Iowa’s future entrepreneurs is unparalleled,” commented David Hensley, director of the University of Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center.

The competition is a collaborative effort among the Iowa John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Centers located at Drake University, Iowa State University, North Iowa Area Community College, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. 

Congratulations to our University of Iowa Student Businesses!

Optic Origin | Top Statewide Prize ($5,000)
Thuy Nguyen - Junior, BS Biochemistry, Human Physiology minor

Hawkeye Surgical Lighting | Top Statewide Prize ($5,000)
Anthony Piscopo - First Year, Medicine
David Christianson - Resident, Medicine

Precision Sprayers | Regional Prize ($500)
Holly Benett - Senior, BS Computer Science, Mathematics
Blake Espeland - Senior, BS Computer Science, Mathematics
Benjamin Lange - Junior, BSE Computer Engineering