Student app wins $22K at New Venture Challenge

Lee Chang presents a four-minute pitch for his app Venga in front of a panel of judges. (BYU Photo)

A student team’s dating-like app designed to match landlords and renters of properties called Venga won $22,000 last week at the New Venture Challenge, an on-campus competition for student entrepreneurs.

Business strategy major and founder of Venga Lee Chang and MBA student and chief technology officer of Venga Michael Perry have worked together to create an app that allows landlords to filter through potential renters and renters to filter through potential housing. When landlords and renters match up, they can chat through the app.

“It takes a week-long process and turns it into five seconds,” Chang said.

The Venga team received three checks during the course of the event. Perry said $15,000 was from getting into the final eight teams out of 40 that pitched their apps, and the other two were for audience choice and founders choice.

“Receiving the extra funding will enable us to build out more features in Venga and work toward our end goal as a company,” Perry said.

Chang said while they are launching the app in Utah, they hope that through the funding they received, they can establish themselves in other cities.

Savanna Richardson
Lee Chang and Michael Perry pose with judges with one of three checks they won at the New Venture Challenge. (BYU Photo)

“After Utah, we are going to…cities identified as having low barriers to entry, low competition and high demand for rentals,” Chang said. 

Founder of Kickstart Seed Fund and BYU Professor Gavin Christensen, who sat as a judge for the New Venture Challenge, said he was impressed with Venga’s aim to tackle both the landlord and renter markets.

The New Venture Challenge is one of three events in the annual Miller Case Competition sponsored by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology where startups like Venga can come to receive funding and mentorship. MBA student James McConnaughey, one of the students involved in planning the event, said the New Venture Challenge is an opportunity for student entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas to win a piece of $120K to fund their businesses.

“The New Venture Challenge is about as close to ‘shark tank’ as you can get on a college campus,” McConnaughey said. “There are three parts to the event: the speed pitch, the showcase and the final event.”

The first event of the Miller Case Competition is in late September with the Big Idea Pitch. McConnaughey said if students only have a simple idea, they can come to the Rollins Center for help in moving forward.

“On one level, every student team that participates…gets valuable mentoring as they go through the exercise of articulating and validating their business ideas,” McConnaughey said. “On another level, the competition winners walk away with some hard-won capital for their startup, and the money comes with very few strings attached.”

Christensen said he is happy to be a professor in such a good program.

“I think the reality is, BYU has one of the premier entrepreneurship programs in the world … if you take advantage of all the stuff that is here: capital, mentoring — it’s kind of one of a kind,” Christensen said.

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