54 Startup Weekend

September 23-25 | In-Person

54 is a 3-day startup event where students from different backgrounds come together to form teams and launch a successful startup. Think hackathon, but more open-ended. No experience required. Just bring yourself, some friends, and good ideas. Food, swag, & workspace will be provided at the Siebel Center for Design.

54 hours. Go!

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Keynote Speakers

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Matt Rastovac
Matt is the Co-Founder and Head of Engineering at 
Atmos, a custom home building marketplace. Within Atmos, he manages the engineering team and coordinates the product, research, and design teams' initiatives. Matt is passionate about complex systems - he enjoys learning about how different social and economic systems impact the world in unexpected ways and uses his research to drive Atmos towards becoming a global tech company. He is a former Founders President.
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Brad Baum
Brad is a Co-Founder of
Llama Naturals, a plant-based nutrition brand that launched in 2019 with the world's first Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamin (made with no added sugar). Since then, the brand has seen rapid growth and has won multiple product awards, and can be found on several online retailers. Previously, Brad co-founded a DTC sleep products brand and was an investment analyst and commercial banker.  Brad is a Finance graduate of UIUC and enjoys living in Chicago with his wife, Emily, and his dog, LuLu. 

Judges, & Mentors

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Ken Taylor | Mentor
Ken has been mentoring and lecturing on entrepreneurship topics for many years in the Champaign-Urbana community. He has been a judge and mentor for the 54 Startup Weekend competition since its inception in 2013. He has mentored many students participating in the Cozad New Venture Competition, having mentored two first place teams and multiple runner-up teams.
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Alex Gorsuch | Mentor
Alex's current roles include Co-founder and CTO at Ascent Integrated Tech, Principal at Hyena Tech Holdings, and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at UIUC Research Park. He has led the development of over 100 products for the defense and first responder industries, concentrating on ruggedized, low SWaP-C projects like tactical autonomous systems, human performance tech, sensor arrays, and diagnostics. 
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Gabe Price | Judge
Gabe is the Program Coordinator for the iVenture Accelerator Program. He is also the founder of Earnest Earth Agriculture, a company that creates microbial combinations to organically ensure robust crop growth. He recently received his Ph.D. from UIUC researching the application of microbes for agricultural use and has in-depth experience with business model development, intellectual property management, commercialization analysis, and research design.
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Jessica Angel | Mentor
Jessica is the CEO and founder of Summit United, a nonprofit that provides mentorship to high school students that are applying to college from underserved communities. She graduated last May from UIUC and is now a Master's in Public Policy Candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where she focuses on human rights and national security issues. She ultimately hopes to transcend her passion for social innovation and entrepreneurship to dedicate a career to public service.
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Andrew Don | Mentor
Andrew Don is an innovative leader who is passionate about developing solutions at the intersection of innovation and social impact by leveraging 20 years of experience in the software industry along with a diverse background in the startup and social sectors. After years as a software engineering leader, he co-founded Impaktfel, which supports purpose driven entrepreneurs and early stage companies, along with nonprofit founders as they navigate the different stages of a startup. Andrew is an active startup mentor (at 1871 and Polsky Center), advisor, and investor.
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Anshul Shah | Mentor
Anshul Shah is the co-founder and CTO of DeepWalk Research. Civil engineers use DeepWalk's SafeScan Mobile Application to identify and prioritize inaccessible sidewalks The team completed the IVenture Accelerator, placed 3rd in the UChicago College New Venture Challenge, and has raised over $30,000 in funding. Anshul is able to advise student startups on building an MVP and software development in startups.
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Alison Velazquez | Mentor
Alison is a wellness expert, founder & CEO of Skinny Souping, and author of “Souping” (DK Publishing 2015). Both an entrepreneur and thought-leader, her company Skinny Souping has been featured on the TODAY Show and is at the forefront of the new souping trend.  She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a certified Pilates instructor and received a culinary arts degree from Kendall College in Chicago. 
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Jed Taylor | Judge
Jed Taylor is the Executive Director of TEC. In addition to his work at TEC he also works with startup companies as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Enterprise Works in the Research Park. Before joining TEC, Jed was the first employee and the Director of Sales at Pattern Insight--a startup out of the Computer Science Department. Jed has a B.S. in Computer Science from Utah State University, an M.S. in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Illinois. 
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Eddy Mejia | Mentor
Eddy Mejia is a military veteran, computer engineer, and University of Illinois MBA graduate. His experience includes working for 4 Fortune 500 companies in application, game, and product development.  Eddy balances a full-time job in software procurement while working on his current entrepreneurship endeavors in e-commerce/retail, agtech/manufacturing, and B2B services. 
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Brandon Yates | Mentor
Brandon is CEO of DeepWalk, a 2018 54 prizewinner, who has gone on to raise $70,000 in funding through University programs. DeepWalk is currently fundraising a $500,000 seed round and is piloting it's accessibility scanning software with Danville, IL and the University of Illinois Research Park. He has experience in fundraising, lean startup development, and B2B/B2G sales.
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Dustin Wei | Mentor
Dustin Wei is the CEO and co-founder of the startup Steaking.io, a blockchain staking service on the Solana blockchain. In addition, he serves as an advisor to CoinFlip ATMs, the world's leading Bitcoin ATM operator and the fastest growing company in Chicago with over $50 million in revenue in the year 2020. Previously, he was the Head of Business Development at CoinFlip ATMs, where he led a team of seven and was in charge of corporate partnerships and growing new business-lines. Dustin loves anything related to technology, finance, and startups.
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Philbert Chen | Mentor
Philbert Chen is a physician innovator and mentor for numerous student groups. He has mentored over 30 startups at UIUC, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and MIT. He teaches innovation to medical students and engineering students on multiple campuses. His background in medicine, biophysics, biochemistry, oncology, industrial engineering, environmental sustainability, health insurance, and financial investments brings interesting insights into the innovation space. 

Our Team

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Anish Jampana
Co-Director
Jia Situ
Co-Director
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Last year's impact:

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