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Welcome from Starr Marcello, COO and Director of the Polsky Center

Marcello StarrCongratulations on your recent admission into the MBA program at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business.

My name is Starr Marcello and I am the COO and director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I want to welcome you formally to the Booth community, and take a moment to tell you a little bit about the entrepreneurship ecosystem and private equity resources available at Booth as well as the various roles played by the Polsky Center.

Powerful breakthroughs have been a hallmark of the University of Chicago since its founding 125 years ago. From measuring the speed of light to discovering REM sleep, from engineering the first nuclear chain reaction to defining economic theory, our scholars have pioneered new technologies and fields of study. In the last two decades, the Polsky Center has worked with students, faculty, staff, and local community partners to become a leader in translating research and ideas into real-world solutions. Our mission is to advance the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship for the entire university. The role of the Polsky Center is to educate and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders, and to provide students with experiential learning resources to give them valuable skills to pursue a career in private equity or to apply an entrepreneurial mindset to any career path they choose.

Today, entrepreneurship is the top concentration at Chicago Booth, and we offer 30 courses taught by our award-winning full-time and clinical faculty members. Several of our entrepreneurship “lab” courses foster the “learn by doing” approach, which is a teaching style that the University of Chicago has pioneered. For example, our Private Equity and Venture Capital lab course pairs students up with private equity firms to intern and recommend strategic investments for the firm. One of our newest course offerings is an Application Development course, which provides hands-on app development skills for building simple, functional prototypes using Ruby on Rails. And we encourage all students to learn practical, business leadership skills by taking Entrepreneurship Selling, a course taught by Professor Craig Wortmann and recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the “Top Ten” courses in the country.

This year, the Polsky Center is celebrating the 20th anniversary of our Edward L. Kaplan ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), our premier, year-long business launch program. Since 1996, the NVC has helped students turn their ideas into viable businesses. Today, the NVC is recognized as the No. 1 university accelerator program in the nation, includes a roster of companies that have achieved more than $3 billion in mergers and exists, and is where companies like GrubHub and Braintree—and 100 other companies—got their strong start.

As a way to accelerate the commercialization of research ideas, we recently won a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to become a designated Innovation Corps (I-Corps) site. Our Polsky Center I-Corps program allows any student, faculty, or community member working on a project related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) to test the commercial viability of their idea. So far, the Polsky Center has delivered extra-curricular programming, instruction, and individualized coaching to 36 student- and faculty-led teams working on STEM projects, which have gone on to raise more than $2.3 million in external funding. Teams that successfully complete the I-Corps program are eligible to apply for funding from the University of Chicago Innovation Fund, a $20 million fund that invests in early business development and proof-of-concept work.

Finally, the Polsky Center prides itself on being an active member of the vibrant entrepreneurial and private equity ecosystem in Chicago, and across the world. With strong partnerships with the Chicago Innovation Exchange, a state-of-the-art co-working space and fabrication lab location just north of campus; 1871, the tech incubator run out of the Merchandise Mart; Hyde Park Angels, one of the Midwest's largest angel organizations, and several others, the University of Chicago is recognized by the Illinois Innovation Index for increasing the number of start-ups in Illinois—which has tripled since 2009.

If you have not already done so, I strongly encourage you to visit the Polsky Center website, the NVC website, as well as the websites of our entrepreneurship and private equity and our entrepreneurs-in-residence. Members from the Polsky Center will lead a breakout session at First Day. I encourage you to sign up for this session when you register for First Day.  

Best of luck with your decision and, once again, congratulations!


Starr Marcello
COO and Director
Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation