BY LOU CARLOZO
After more than two decades, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge has launched an astonishing number of startups: more than 330, including some entrepreneurial superstars. Braintree now belongs to PayPal; Grubhub ranks as a household name in home food delivery; and Simple Mills counts the No. 1 bestselling natural baking mix, the No. 2 bestselling natural cracker, and the No. 2 bestselling natural cookie in its portfolio.
Now it’s time for University of Chicago alumni founders to grab their share of the limelight and startup success. The Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) marks the latest track to emerge from the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. With its first round of winners just named, here’s a look at the new program, its roots, and its fruits. Stay tuned, as the winners of today promise to emerge as startup leaders tomorrow.
The year ANVC traces its roots to, when the Polsky Center launched the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge.
Its founder, Steve Kaplan, is the Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and Kessenich E. P. Faculty Director of the Polsky Center.
We spent the past two decades perfecting a model that enables our students to take their early-stage ideas and turn them into viable businesses. Now it is time for us to bring that same success to help support our alumni around the world.
NVC Tracks Today
Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, NVC
John Edwardson, ’72, Social NVC
Did You Know?
The NVC is a nationally ranked top accelerator program, an honor shared only by other prestigious accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars.
In its 23-year history, the New Venture Challenge has resulted in:
Funding Raised by Companies
Companies Still in Operation
In Mergers and Exits
Did You Know?
The funds raised by all ANVC track participants is nearly three times the annual budget of Boulder, Colorado, the home of the renowned accelerator Techstars.
Why an ANVC?
Polsky Center leaders cite these three compelling reasons:
Alumni requesting early-stage venture support globally. Chicago Booth and UChicago graduates clearly sought to turn their startup dreams into business reality.
Alumni attempting to recruit current UChicago students to gain eligibility to participate in other NVC tracks. Given all the competition to join other tracks, why not a track for alumni to shine?
Peer schools launching similar alumni efforts. The Polsky Center promises to soon lead by example through the ANVC.
We expect the Alumni NVC to help launch a new cohort of real, scalable businesses.
Year One of the ANVC
Getting into the ANVC requires a level of discipline that foreshadows the success potential of its
hopefuls—and already represents an impressive global scope. Teams included graduates from across
UChicago, including the College, Booth, and other master’s programs.
5 regions made up the 2019 competition. Here’s how many teams advanced to the semifinal
competition in each region and pitched at events in these cities:
- WEST COAST:
- EAST COAST:
New York City
TO PHASE II
and pitched their
businesses in the
five hub cities.
and their team
alumni from Booth,
the College, and
THE CASH PRIZE
and, along with
the Polsky Center,
TIED FOR THIRD PLACE
Taplingua (Europe), a startup that enables hotels to train their frontline workers in foreign language skills via mobile phone.
Vroom Delivery (Midwest), an ecommerce platform for convenience stores.
Award: $15,000 each
Duuno (Asia), a research-based platform that teaches languages online to children ages 1 to 12. It utilizes the proven Duuno Method, based on short-duration, high-frequency, lessons in a one-on-one format with native speakers.
CareAdvisors (Midwest), software that automates the process of enrolling patients in Medicaid. In a field of spirited, visionary applicants and hopefuls, CareAdvisors stood out by virtue of its unique value proposition: to use its Medicaid enrollment software as a path “to deliver community- based assistance to ensure no one falls through the cracks, and eliminate losses from a lack of health-care coverage.” The gist: CareAdvisors automates the manual enrollment process. It also pairs clients with “navigation teams,” medical professionals selected within 72 hours who assist with a variety of issues, from provider research and selection to language barriers.
CEO: Christopher Gay, ’08
Next year will add Latin America as a sixth region, with São Paulo serving as the programming hub for the area.
Starting next year, Hong Kong will replace Bangalore as the Asia Region’s hub for programming.