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Global New Venture Challenge Draws Over 30 Teams

Autoplanet, an Indian roadside service modeled after AAA, won the 2009 Global New Venture Challenge because its business model is predictable, sustainable, and scalable, said company founder Pankaj Kundra, ’09 (EXP-14).

“This model has been very successful in the developed countries,” Kundra said after the Global NVC finals at Gleacher Center on March 19. “But until now there has been no national footprint in the developing countries providing this service to consumers. I think part of the reason it won is that people could relate to the reality of the business proposition.”

Autoplanet competed against three other semi-finalist companies from London and Singapore to earn an automatic berth into the 2009 Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge finals on May 28 at the Harper Center. The Global NVC is a unique platform to expand the New Venture Challenge business plan competition to students enrolled in the Executive MBA Programs. Weekend MBA programs worldwide. The NVC is hosted by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.

Although Kundra competed alone, he utilized advisors outside Chicago Booth and received extensive mentoring from within. “I got a lot of help from Chicago Booth, especially on the London campus,” Kundra said. “It started with sessions on the financial modeling, then coaching, and then learning within our student group. We had such a diverse group – 15 nationalities and people who specialize in various things.”

The second place winner, XSPR, came from the Singapore campus. The business in formation is a sports racing car school located nearby Macau across from Hong Kong and targets the increased consumer demand for cars in China. Vanessa Shiu, the co-founder, is an experienced racecar driver in China as well as the president of an asset management company in Hong Kong.

The Global NVC competition differed significantly from last year’s inaugural event because students were given the opportunity to pursue the competition as part of a new course led by adjunct professor Kathleen Fitzgerald, said Linda Darragh, adjunct associate professor of entrepreneurship.

“Chicago Booth was able to recruit 20 high quality mentors at each of the London and Singapore campuses to advise students. It was wonderful to re-engage many alumni as mentors and judges,” she said. Ultimately, 18 teams chose to compete in Singapore and 15 in London, Darragh said. “It was such a high at the end of the winter quarter. The last class they had was the presentations and finals of the NVC. Students were so excited. It was seen as a capstone course for them. Everything they learned in the Executive MBA Program could be applied to their businesses. It was taking the theoretical and making it practical. I believe a couple of these companies are actually going to launch.”

Autoplanet appealed to judges because the business has addressed the current competition and it could scale, said Darragh said. “We will continue to work with this business before the competition to tackle questions about the economics of the business model. But Kundra really conveyed that he was going to go out and do this and make it happen. The judges like to see that, too.”

— Phil Rockrohr