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The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the social impact track of the University of Chicago’s nationally ranked business launch program, the New Venture Challenge.

The winners of the 14th annual Edwardson SNVC, which launches enterprises with a social impact mission, received $150,000 in venture funding.

The Dev Difference, which provides a simulated mock interview environment for candidates, won the top prize of $70,000. The user-friendly platform is tailored for students and career transitioners, offering valuable resources to first-time interviewees who may not have an established network for technical interviews.

Two teams, Iziko Ryacu and KindEd, tied for second place, winning $40,000 each.

Iziko Ryacu is a social enterprise that plans to produce and distribute energy efficient clay-based briquettes as fuel for rural Rwandan households. It aims to educate people on the benefits of clean cooking and climate action while creating jobs and other income opportunities for local residents.

KindEd is a nonprofit that aims to equip and empower young people to become agents of change by providing a social media literacy curriculum for schools and advocating for policy changes across Illinois school districts. Its curriculum seamlessly integrates literacy and social-emotional learning standards.

Kuleta, a digital marketplace that connects vendors of nonperishable goods based in Kenya with customers in the United States, won the Audience Choice Award of $5,000. The award is open to all teams that advanced to the second phase of the Edwardson SNVC.

“It is inspiring to work with these students dedicated to social impact and see how much progress all the SNVC participants make during the Spring Quarter,”  said Rob Gertner, the Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance and John Edwardson Faculty Director Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. “I am excited to see them continue to work on their innovative ventures in the US and other parts of the world.”

Eighteen teams advanced to the second phase of the 2024 SNVC, spending their Spring Quarter on developing their social ventures. This year, all seven finalists had either a female founder or co-founder.

The finalists also included Blueline, Nosso, Ohr, and Sirkularis.

As a politically partisan venture, Blueline was not eligible for prize money. The judges provided special recognition to the team for the quality of their presentation and the venture’s potential.

Nineteen judges with expertise in investing, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, including several Booth alumni, selected the winners. Click here to read about the 2024 SNVC judges.

The SNVC is the cornerstone of the Rustandy Center’s Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Chicago, an initiative named in recognition of a 2016 gift by John Edwardson, ’72, retired chairman and CEO of CDW and co-chair of Advance Illinois. All 2024 SNVC sponsors can be found here.

“I am delighted to see our students using new ideas and technologies to tackle problems ranging from unmet needs in our society to sustainability and climate change. These teams give me great confidence in the future,” John Edwardson said.

The Edwardson SNVC Highlights:

  • Since 2011, the Edwardson SNVC has helped jump-start more than 200 companies and nonprofits
  • SNVC companies have gone on to raise more than $168 million in philanthropic dollars, grant support, and venture capital funding
  • Notable alumni include: B2B e-commerce platform for Africa's informal retailers, Wasoko, solar-powered light company LuminAID, online voter guide BallotReady, Nairobi-based tractor leasing company Hello Tractor, and autism therapy provider AIM Clinics (now Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers)

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 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.

Media Contact:
Tali Griffin, Rustandy Center

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