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Chicago Booth awards $50,000 to the Social New Venture Challenge teams

June 03, 2013

Purple Binder Takes Top Prize at Third Annual John Edwardson, ’72, Social Venture Competition

Chicago (May 31, 2013)The University of Chicago Booth School of Business , its Social Enterprise Initiative and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are pleased to announce the winners of the third annual Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the school’s premier start-up program for social ventures.

The SNVC spans the full academic year and helps students launch and run new businesses with a focus on social impact. Modeled after the original Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, SNVC companies can be structured either as for-profits or nonprofits and must show a model for financial sustainability. More than 30 teams applied to the program, which culminated at the finals event on May 29. This year’s winners, chosen from a group of six finalists, were awarded $50,000 in cash prizes:

  • Purple Binder won the first place prize of $35,000. With no central place for social workers or health care professionals to find all the services for their clients, Purple Binder offers a one-stop shop for making referrals.
  • Project SAM placed second and received a $10,000 prize. Project SAM (SMS Accounting Management) is an innovative feature-phone application targeted at organizations and individuals in developing countries that will allow for the tracking of business inventories and useful statistics simply via text.
  • EduLink placed third and received $5,000. EduLink selects high potential low-income students, trains them in critical business skills, and places them in internships that cover their complete tuition costs.

This year’s other finalists included BluFlame Ventures, which is developing a sustainable ecosystem for the production and distribution of ethanol cooking fuel and clean cookstoves in West Africa; Circle of Strut brings style to stability by designing walking canes inspired by fashion, helping people overcome stigmas associated with walking canes; and Malone Greene Restaurant Corp., a community development company focused on bringing food options to minority neighborhoods.

“Congratulations to the winners and to all of the participants in the 2013 Social New Venture Challenge,” said Robert Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance, deputy dean, and faculty co-director of the Social Enterprise Initiative. “Teams came together from all areas of the University of Chicago campus to work on some truly inspiring businesses. We’re eager to see these start-ups grow.”

The success of the Social New Venture Challenge is made possible through the generous support of sponsors, including John Edwardson, ’72, retired chairman and chief executive of CDW, who endowed the program in 2013. He is a supporter of the Chicago Booth Social Enterprise Initiative, which includes as part of its programming helping students launch and grow businesses in the social sector. Additional program sponsors include Ron Tarrson, ’72, managing partner and director, Santa Fe Aero Services; and Steve Tarrson.  

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

The Edward L Kaplan, ’71, NVC, which has provided a foundation for the SNVC, serves as a partner and sponsor for the four NVC tracks at the University of Chicago. These tracks include:

  • 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, the Polsky Center recently launched the CNVC to help UChicago undergraduates craft innovative and sustainable for-profi t and non-profit enterprises.


About the Social Enterprise Initiative

The Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business aims to enhance the efficiency and impact of social sector organizations through research, data collection, communication, and education. Established to support interest in the nonprofit and social sectors, SEI builds on Chicago Booth's commitment to rigorous analysis and its discipline-based approach to understanding organizations, markets, and policy. The initiative's mission is to further the field of research on issues of importance to the social sector and to support social enterprises that wish to apply proven business practices to strategic decision-making and organization management. Visit the SEI website for more information.


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.