A messaging app that doesn’t leave a digital trail won University of Illinois at Chicago’s 2016 Startup Challenge.

Clean Slate Messenger, the ephemeral messaging app created by Rachel Harsley, a PhD computer science student at UIC, won the top prize of $3,000, beating out over 60 student startups who competed.

Rachel Harsley at the UIC Startup Challenge.
Rachel Harsley at the UIC Startup Challenge.

The aim of Clean Slate is to make messaging more transparent, and erasable, through letter-by-letter typing and the ability to delete any messages received or sent with the swipe of a finger. When someone deletes a message, it’s erased from the message history and isn’t archived, so there’s no digital trace. If someone takes a screenshot of a message, the sender is alerted. Currently Clean Slate is a freemium iOS app (Android is coming soon), and Harsley has plans for extra premium features such as group messaging.

“As a computer science PhD candidate, it was great to receive feedback and validation from the UIC Business School and Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies,” Harsley, who will be joining Google as a software engineer after she graduates, told Chicago Inno. “Our team will use the prize money to continue to build our technical infrastructure and finalize the protection of our intellectual property. We are actively seeking investors to partner with us in order to continue rapid growth and monetization of the platform.”

This is the 11th annual UIC StartUp Challenge, and over 60 student founders pitched ideas ranging from a fingerskate startup to a student loan application startup. Students from 11 UIC colleges participated, including business, education, engineering, pharmacy, and public health.  Last year Anautomy, an auto repair price aggregator, won the competition.

Here are the winners of the 2016 UIC StartUp Challenge: 

1st place ($3,000, a one year membership to the Chicago Innovation Exchange, and entry to the Recess pitch competition)

Clean Slate Messenger: an ephemeral messaging app that lets users message without leaving a digital trail.

2nd place ($1,000)

Beet Strong: a beet-infused nutrition bar that’s high protein, high fiber, made with real fruit nuts, and choloate. The ingredients are linked to improved cardiovascular function, athletic performance, and muscle building.

Finalists ($500 each)

Arch Fingerskate Corporation: a startup that produces interactive fingerskate platforms aiming to capitalize on a young, emerging fingerskate market.

NeXTSTEP: a platform that allows students to submit one sudent loan application to receive multiple offers from different banks to find the one that best fits their needs.

Clearmaze: a startup that helps community college students pick courses that can transfer to the four year university they’d later like to attend.

Senteme: this platform aggregates online reviews to create in-depth, automated summaries of people’s opinions on products to help consumers make better buying decisions and businesses design better products.

Early venture track finalists ($500 each)

Ecoair: a startup focused on a sustainable lifestyle for efficient consumers by combining engineering and marketing mindsets to deliver desirable products.

Clutch for Life: this startup offers prison inmates a second chance at success through handcrafting luxury bags for their community.

ShoeBoxOne: a startup that’s creating display boxes for a prized sneaker collection.

Pear Loans: a platform that matches investors with small businesses through a patented online lending platform that provides faster funding, better rate,s and asset backed security.

Elevator pitch winner ($750)

International Youth & Children Sports Development: a startup that focuses on developing international sports programs for UIC international students, and over 1 million current students in Beijing, China