LivingWaters and Impact Toolbox (I-Toolbox) tie for top prize, each earning $40,000, in nationally ranked accelerator program finals

 

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are pleased to announce the winners of the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), which was hosted in a fully online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Winners of the 10th annual SNVC, which launches enterprises with a social impact mission and a plan for financial sustainability, received a total of $100,000 in venture funding. The winners are:

First Place ($40,000): LivingWaters has developed a low-cost, easily deployable rainwater collection system to provide clean water to the world’s displaced populations in refugee camps and informal off-grid settlements. Team members: Joseph Bajor, Caleb Kao, Joshua Kao, Juliana Piza Caballero, Angela Remus, and Gabriela Saade (School affiliation: Booth, Harris, Law School).

First Place ($40,000): ImpactToolbox (I-Toolbox) is a digital incubation platform that provides youths and emerging social entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa with the opportunity to learn, network, and access seed funding to transform their ideas for social change into viable social ventures. Team members: Linh Dinh, Segun Fatudimu (School affiliation: Harris).

Third Place ($20,000): Brink is a nonprofit focused on making the American democratic process more inclusive for people with disabilities by using technology to simplify and improve the voting experience. Team members: Eden Avriel, Duke Best, Dylan Bulkeley-Krane, and Steve Puiszis (School affiliation: Booth).

Other finalists: Ceres, NGOrganize, Ponte, Zócalo

SNVC finalists, who competed on June 2, will also share in more than $100,000 of in-kind services, including office space, legal services, and professional consulting. 

"All of our SNVC finalists showed tremendous commitment to driving forward meaningful impact in diverse ways – from providing clean water in refugee camps to making the American democratic process more inclusive for people with disabilities,” said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Chicago Booth and John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center. “We are proud of all students who presented their ideas and look forward to continuing to support their ventures as they grow.”

Nearly 20 judges—including experienced social and traditional entrepreneurs, impact investors, nonprofit leaders, and many Chicago Booth alumni—provided feedback throughout the SNVC program. Judges included Keith Breslauer, ’88, founder and managing director of Patron Capital; Tasha Seitz, a partner at Impact Engine; William Towns, managing director of Chi-Town Impact at 4S Bay Partners; and Erik Wallsten, ’04, cofounder and managing partner of Adobe Capital. A full list of judges can be found on the SNVC website.

The SNVC is run by the Rustandy Center, in partnership with the Polsky Center. This year, 16 teams competed for seven spots in the SNVC finals, including students representing Booth, the College, the Harris School of Public Policy, the Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, and the Pritzker School of Medicine.The SNVC is the cornerstone of the Rustandy Center’s Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Chicago, which is an initiative named in recognition of a 2016 gift by John Edwardson,’72, retired chairman and CEO of CDW, a leading provider of technology solutions, and co-chair of Advance Illinois, an independent statewide education organization.

“This year’s teams embody the heart of the SNVC: tackling vital social impact challenges with resilience and creativity,” Edwardson said. “As we look forward to the 10-year anniversary of the SNVC, I’m excited to support UChicago’s newest group of social entrepreneurs.”

By the Numbers:

  • Since 2011, the SNVC has helped jump-start more than 100 companies and nonprofits
  • SNVC companies have gone on to raise more than $35 million in philanthropic dollars, grant support, and venture capital funding
  • Among them: solar-powered light company LuminAID, which has twice appeared on Shark Tank; Nigeria-based tractor leasing company Hello Tractor; online voter guide BallotReady; autism therapy provider AIM Clinics; and B2B e-commerce platform for Africa's informal retailers, Sokowatch

 

About the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation

The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is the destination at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business for people committed to helping solve complex social and environmental problems. As Chicago Booth’s social impact hub, the Rustandy Center offers hands-on learning opportunities, supports innovative courses, and pursues research—all with the goal of developing people and practices with the potential to solve the world’s biggest problems.

About the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago brings the power of ideas in the laboratory, classroom, and community to the world by providing resources to commercialize discoveries, partner with companies, and attract venture capital. The Polsky Center helps foster a culture of innovation that extends across the University, city, and region, including UChicago’s nationally-recognized accelerator program, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. The mission of the Polsky Center is to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice, idea and action, and research and impact.