Build a startup from the ground up.

September 27-29th 2019 , Siebel Center

54 is a 3-day event where students from different backgrounds come together to form teams and launch a successful startup. No experience required. Just bring yourself, some friends and good ideas. Food and drinks will be provided.


Who should apply?

54 is open to all majors and ages. We strongly believe that entrepreneurship isn’t tied to a major – anyone with a passion to solve a problem can build a startup.

When will I hear back?

We will be sending out acceptances on a rolling basis until the application deadline, which is Wednesday, October 2nd.

Do I have to pitch an idea to participate?

You can still attend 54 even if you don’t pitch an idea; however, the exchange of ideas is what makes 54 great! We highly encourage brainstorming ideas. We want to be inspired by your passion!

What can I do in the meantime?

Think of problems that you personally face every day or see in your community and how you would solve those! We also encourage practicing your pitch! Also, tell your friends and check out our Facebook event and social media links to get updates. :)

During the Weekend

Can I pitch an idea for a startup that’s already in progress?

Yes! This year we'll be accepting in-progress startups. You won't be eligible for normal prizes, but if our Microgrants committee likes your pitch, you may receive a microgrant up to $500 from Founders.

Can I pitch more than one idea?

Depending on the number of ideas pitched, you may be able to pitch two ideas.

What if my idea doesn’t get selected?

No problem! You can still join a team and participate.

Can we see past presentation examples?

Absolutely. Send us a message and we can share some past slide decks with you.


What is 54?

54 is a startup weekend where ideas are turned into a reality. Attendees come in on Friday and pitch ideas, form teams, and learn how to turn their ideas into a business with mentors' guidance over the course of the weekend.

What's in it for you?

54 builds strong friendships and sustainable businesses that last even after the event is over. Startups are powered aircrafts, not projectiles.

Cash Prizes: The top three teams will walk away with some money to help turn their idea into a reality.
Dinner: The top teams get a networking dinner with our sponsors.
Real Startups: Some of our past winners include Amber Waves, Mymetrics, and FreeSkies.

Will there be food?

Absolutely! We will have a constant supply of snacks, coffee, and food – you take care of your startup, we'll take care of you.

Is it overnight?

Nope. You won't need to work overnight to get things done, and we believe people do their best work when they take care of themselves.

I have an idea that I want to pitch! What should I do to prepare?

Awesome! 54 is the perfect place to meet team members that can help bring your idea to life. Practice and do your research; no presentation slides please – you will have 60 seconds to convince attendees to join your team!

I don’t have an idea that I want to pitch :(

Yet! But bring a unique perspective - teams will need members from many different backgrounds!

Are we expected to work on our startup after 54 is over?

We provide cash prizes and a network so you have direction and motivation to continue working on your startup! However, learning how a company is started with your team and mentors is still a great experience on its own, and we understand that not everybody can commit to their own company full-time.

What are past participants up to?

They’ve gone on to win the Cozad New Venture Competition, participate in startup accelerators, participated in fellowships, and raised funding.

404: Question not found?

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Can I have a pre-formed team?

We highly encourage forming teams at the event to gain new perspectives, though you're free to bring friends and stick together.

When does the event start and end?

Check-in starts at 6 PM on Friday, October 5th. The event ends at 6 PM on Sunday, October 7th, with the networking dinner for finalists at 6:30 PM.

What should I bring?

A laptop, charger, passion, and excitement!

Day 1: Imagine

Pitch Fest
Team Formation

Day 2: Create

Market Research
Business Evaluation

Day 3: Launch


View Full Schedule


Musa Sulejmani

Musa Sulejmani is the CEO and founder of Volume Technologies, a holding company for internal projects, and Volume Apps, a development agency. He initially built Volume Technologies as an undergraduate at UIUC. With $1MM revenue in his first year of business, Sulejmani left school to pursue his app full time. Based out of California, he is also a freelance app developer and an end stage renal disease survivor.

Ritu Trivedi-Purohit

Dr. Ritu Trivedi-Purohit, a clinical psychologist, founded Thriveosity to bring overlooked aspects of cancer care to the limelight. By identifying “challenge areas” for cancer patients that range from nutrition to skin-care, she has been able to transform each of her patients from survivors to Thrivers.

Tod Courtney

Tod Courtney is the director of Jump Labs, Jump Trading’s office in Research Park, where he manages research projects and internship programs. He led the initial design and development of Jump’s cryptocurrency trading platform. He has a BS/MS in Computer Engineering from the University and has broad experience as a software engineer, focusing on parallelization, simulation and visualization. Prior to Jump, he was a partner in a Champaign-based started that was successfully acquired by ANSYS.

Dan Klein

Dan Klein founded Tiesta Tea with his childhood best friend Patrick Tannous after their study abroad trip in 2009. The company now has a variety of loose-leaf tea blends, cold brew bottled tea and tea-related products available in over 8000 stores including Costco, Safeway, Albertsons, H-E-B and Target. Dan graduated from UIUC with a degree in finance. Tiesta Tea is a two-time Inc. 5000 Winner, and was also featured as one of Inc. Magazine's 30 Under 30 for 2018.

Ken Taylor

Ken Taylor is the Data Engineering Manager at Granular's Research Park office. He’s worked for renowned companies such as Capital One, Agrible, Akuna Capital, Yahoo, Motorola, and others. He’s an expert engineer as well as an experienced manager with expertise across multiple industries.

Ayush Kumar

Ayush Kumar is the COO of Vitrix Health, a health tech company committed to widespread affordability and accessibility of medical devices. Passionate about cyber-security, cryptography, venture capital and startups, Ayush recently received his bachelor’s in computer engineering from UIUC. He is also a cyber security associate at PWC and senior fellow at Illinois Ventures.

Shivani Shah

Shivani Shah is the membership development specialist at the physical product development and innovation center mHub. She was previously in both corporate and middle market banking, where she analyzed a variety of companies operating across manufacturing, distribution, logistics and retail industries. This background helped her gain exposure to financial analysis, relationship management and business development, the latter of which is a great passion of hers. Shivani graduated from UIUC with a degree in finance and a concentration in marketing.

Chris Wu

Chris Wu is currently an associate at Impact Engine, an impact-focused investment firm focused on addressing urgent social and environmental needs. Prior to joining Impact Engine, Chris was a licensed professional engineer and LEED consultant specializing in green building design and construction, as well as program management on capital improvement projects modernizing municipal water infrastructure. He is also currently an MBA Candidate at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

DJ Podgorny

DJ Podgorny is a consultant who helps startups grow their businesses and audience by designing and implementing both digital strategies and optimized systems. He previously worked as a business analyst within eBay's business operations and strategy department and has traveled to almost 40 countries thus far. DJ graduated from UIUC with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in technology and management.

Amrit Singh

Amrit Singh is a venture capitalist conducting venture research at TechNexus. He has previously been a consultant for Galt & Company and Narrative Science. He has been heavily involved in the UIUC entrepreneurship community as a Ventures Fellow at Illinois VENTURES and as a project director for EntreCORPS. Amrit graduated from UIUC with a degree in finance and a minor in technology and management.

Sarah Perkins

Sarah Perkins is the CEO and co-founder of DesignerShare, an online platform that allows women to rent their designer clothing and accessories to one another. Before starting DesignerShare, Sarah worked as the associate editor at Where Chicago magazine and as a freelance lifestyle reporter and editorial intern at Modern Luxury. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University's Leavey School of Business and her Masters in journalism from DePaul University.

Viktor Makarskyy

Viktor Makarskyy is currently the CEO of Menu3, which makes augmented reality restaurant menus. Menu3 builds products to help consumers make insightful decisions about their purchases. Viktor’s deep interest and expertise lies in emerging technologies, where alongside founding companies, he writes about cryptoeconomics, chatbots and augmented reality.

Patryk Swietek

Patryk Swietek, a senior studying information systems at UIUC, is a technology and business enthusiast who loves implementing technology to solve societal problems. Patryk is the current VP of Business Development at Menu3, a startup aiming to integrate augmented reality technology into the restaurant industry.