Three former participants in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) weighed in on their experiences, including (from left to right) Aviva Rosman, AB ’10, MPP ’16, of BallotReady, which won the SNVC in 2015; current Booth and Harris student Trista Li of KitcheNet, which was an SNVC finalist in 2016; and current Booth student Aaron Goltz of 2015 SNVC team Exercise Buddy.

What if your Facebook "like" could be turned into real-world action? Could the developing world benefit from an IKEA for wind turbines, or would more millennials attend cultural events if signed up for a Birchbox-like subscription service?

These questions and potential business solutions were presented for the first time during the orientation for the 2017 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the social impact track of the University of Chicago’s business launch program the Edward L. Kaplan, '71, New Venture Challenge (NVC).

This week’s SNVC orientation served as a jumping-off point for fifteen teams of UChicago students, who will spend Spring Quarter forming a nonprofit or for-profit with a social mission at the core.

Part of the new Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program, the SNVC is organized by Chicago Booth’s Social Enterprise Initiative, along with the university’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Professor Robert H. Gertner, John Edwardson Faculty Director at SEI; Deputy Dean for Faculty; and Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy at Booth, gave students a brief overview of expectations for the 10-week course, which culminates with half the teams competing in the SNVC finals on May 23.

SNVC Orientation
During orientation, Booth student Jake Mikva, right, and SNVC teammate Rachel Schneider presented their idea for GoodWerk, an online platform that aims to increase civic engagement by converting social media "slacktivism" into real-world engagement.

“Always be thinking about why your venture could fail,” he said. “What are the real barriers for your venture to be successful, and what do we need to improve?”

To give students insights on the process, Gertner asked three former SNVC participants to weigh in on their experiences, including Aviva Rosman, AB ’10, MPP ’16, of BallotReady, which won the SNVC in 2015; current Booth and Harris student Trista Li of KitcheNet, which was an SNVC finalist in 2016; and current Booth student Aaron Goltz of 2015 SNVC team Exercise Buddy.

They agreed giving and accepting feedback was important, along with nailing down your business’s value proposition, and finding out which team members want to continue with the business after graduation.

“You’ll never be at a point where you can say, ‘I’m done,’” said Goltz, who’s also the course’s teaching assistant.

Students then gave two-minute pitches — for the competition, the limit is 13 minutes — about what their start-up’s aims are and how they hope the SNVC will help move them forward.

Gertner noted the diversity of ideas before answering questions and offering some encouragement.

“You’re all in the SNVC because we think there’s real potential for each one of these teams,” he said.

2017 SNVC Teams:

American Direct Philanthropy – Provides a platform for the wealthy to pledge a portion of their current and future earnings to fight income inequality

Boundless – Provides a platform that offers high-quality training on soft skills for job candidates and employees through interactive exercises

ExecConnect for Student Success – Serves as a nonprofit connection between students and under-resourced communities with dedicated executive mentors, focusing on helping community college students transfer to four-year colleges

Electric Spokes – Bills itself as the “IKEA for wind turbines,” delivering wind turbine parts to developing regions that can be assembled on site to provide much-needed, reliable electricity

First Take – Aims to enrich the arts in communities by creating a subscription service (think Birchbox) for cultural experiences

Fix-My-Community – Serves as an interactive technology system for anti-corruption in Uganda, allowing citizens to submit corruption complaints to an online database

FlipSide – Aims to reduce online political polarization through machine learning, offering a website extension that would expose users to viewpoints different from their own

GoodWerk – Provides an online platform that increases civic engagement by converting online “slacktivism” into real-world engagement, connecting citizens to candidates and causes

Halah This Way, LLC – Establishes an LGBTQ multimedia company that works to shift attitudes about LGBTQ individuals within Muslim-majority countries of the Middle East and Africa by publishing personal works, producing digital media and providing resources

Jetson Benefits - Serves as an online platform and third party through which workers can purchase a personalized suite of benefits and maintain access to them regardless of employment status

JuryCheck – Creates a legal, tech web-based application that provides a comprehensive platform for criminal defense attorneys, courts and criminal justice reform advocates to detect and monitor racial and gender underrepresentation in jury pools

ParenTelligence – Provides a child development App for parents, aggregating the latest parent-related research in one convenient place for parents

Provide – Aims to fix the childcare system for low-income families and childcare providers through advocacy and by offering a software-based back office solution that tracks expenses, taxes and government subsidies for daycare business owners

Tallgrass Tanning – Creates a supply chain that better captures, transports, and processes the hides of American grass-fed cattle to deliver them for final tanning

VeteranStay – Provides an Airbnb-like travel accommodation platform for U.S. veterans, allowing veterans to network and travel by hosting or staying at the home of another veteran

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