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Chicago Booth announces 2013 Edward L. Kaplan '71 New Venture Challenge Winners

June 03, 2013

matchist Takes Top Prize at 17th Annual Business Competition; Winners Receive Over $200,000 in Cash Prizes and Business Services

Chicago (May 31, 2013) – The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and its Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are pleased to announce the winners of the 17th Annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, the school’s premier start-up program.

The NVC spans the full academic year and helps students launch and run new businesses. In the fall, more than 100 teams applied to the program, which culminated in the day-long finals competition on May 30. Ten teams presented their start-ups to a panel of distinguished judges, comprising established entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists, each vying for their share of over $200,000 in cash and in-kind prizes, the largest award package in NVC program history. In-kind prizes for all of the winning teams include legal services, profes¬≠sional consulting, and office space in the ARCH Venture Partners New Business Incubator, housed within the Polsky Center: 

  • matchist won the first place cash prize of $30,000. A source for software integration developers, matchist partners with tech companies to help customers integrate products quickly and easily.
  • Aeos Technology placed second and received a $20,000 prize. Aeos Technology designs, manufactures, and deliver innovative module-agnostic solar tracking systems uniquely suited for commercial installations.
  • Project Fixup placed third and received $15,000. Project Fixup is a digital matchmaker that fixes up busy professionals on fun one-on-one dates. They do all the work, from finding a person to coordinating a convenient time and place, to make it easier and more fun to meet someone new.
  • Two teams tied for fourth place and each received $10,000: Arc Mobile enables restaurant patrons to pay and split their bill on their mobile phone making it easier for restaurant patrons to pay and leave quickly; Cancer IQ is an enterprise oncology informatics platform that helps cancer centers increase research productivity and deliver personalized medicine.
  • Kishr placed fifth and received $5,000. Kishr is a new category of beverage made from the dried coffee cherry that is high in antioxidants and low in caffeine. Kishr is currently being sold in 20+ retail locations and online.

This year’s other finalists include Intelligent Widgets, a medical device company focused on Obstructive Sleep Apnea; Khelo, which builds in-app purchase-based mobile games customized for emerging mobile markets; Wit Interactive, a company that provides virtual interactive programming designed for older adults.; and Yella, a cloud-based customer experience management tool for quick-serve restaurant chains.. These teams each received $2,500 in seed funding. 

“So many of this year’s start-ups became real businesses by the end of the competition”” said Ellen Rudnick, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “All of the teams made significant progress validating their business model. Many teams that did not advance to the finals are also very promising and could have easily advanced. “

Since its launch in 1996, the NVC has awarded more than $925,000 in cash prizes, plus more than $2M in business services. Over the past 17 years, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge has helped launch more than 85 companies, which have gone on to raise over $300 million in funding and have created several thousands of jobs. NVC companies include Agile Diagnosis, Brilliant, Base (formerly Future Simple), BenchPrep, Braintree, brightroom, Bump, GrubHub, InContext Solutions, and MedSpeed, among others.

The success of the NVC is made possible through the generous support of corporate and individual sponsors. The title sponsor is Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, founder and former chairman and CEO of Zebra Technologies. He has sponsored the NVC since its inception and endowed the program in 2012. Kaplan also serves on the Polsky Center’s Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.

Other sponsors this year include Abbvie; Deloitte; Robert and Keren Vishny; Immanuel Thangaraj; AB '92, MBA '93; William Blair; Market Strategy Group; Katten Muchin Rosenman, LLP; Barnes & Thornburg; Hyde Park Angels; Steve Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago Booth; Sure Payroll; Elizabeth Jean Pitt, '02; Microsoft BizSpark; and Sergiy Bulavenko, '11. In-kind sponsors include AlphaGraphics; ARCH Venture Partners; Digital Catalyst Fund; Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp; and Uber. Thank you to all of our sponsors for their support of start-ups at the University of Chicago.

About the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge Program

Launched in 1996, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) is the University of Chicago’s premier start-up program, designed to help student teams turn ideas into viable businesses. The NVC process begins in the fall with team building, networking, and ideation. In the winter, teams apply to the program by submitting feasibility summaries. Selected teams then advance to a classroom round, where they work on their businesses, practice pitching, develop a full business plan, and receive mentorship from investors and established entrepreneurs. The NVC concludes in May with a finals competition, where teams pitch to a world-class panel of investors and entrepreneurs. Prizes in the form of cash, legal services, and professional consulting are awarded.

The NVC has expanded to include four tracks, which offer tailored programming to meet the needs of UChicago’s diverse student body:

  • Traditional New Venture Challenge (NVC) The original track of the NVC has helped launch many successful, high-growth companies such as Braintree, GrubHub, Bump Technologies, and Base.
  • Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) Co-organized by the Polsky Center and the Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth, the SNVC helps students launch for-profit and nonprofit ventures with social impact missions and models for financial sustainability. The program was endowed by John Edwardson, ’72, in 2013.
  • Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) In 2008, the NVC added a track for Executive MBA students from the Chicago Booth London, Singapore, and Chicago campuses. An online platform allows globally-based alumni to participate as mentors.
  • College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) Building on the success of UChicago’s Social Innovation Competition, with the College’s Career Advancement Office, the Polsky Center supports the CNVC to help UChicago undergraduates craft innovative and sustainable for-profit and non-profit enterprises.


About the Polsky Center

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is the leading resource for University of Chicago students and alumni as they pursue entrepreneurial endeavors and private equity careers. The center supports entrepreneurial development through its cutting-edge curriculum, innovative hands-on learning experiences, leading faculty research, conferences, and community and global outreach programs. For more information, visit the Polsky Center website.