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Chicago Booth Announces Winner of the 2023 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge
Justice tech venture Period wins $75,000 top prize.
- May 24, 2023
- Rustandy Center - Social Entrepreneurship
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 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.
Winners of the 13th annual Edwardson SNVC, which launches enterprises with a social impact mission received a total of $150,000 in venture funding.
Period, a subscription based digital platform that gives incarcerated people access to free legal assistance and advocacy for innocence and post-conviction relief, won the top prize of $75,000. An innocent person currently spends an average of 14 years in prison before being exonerated. Period’s first of its kind digital communications platform replaces the existing system that relies on physical mail, offering quicker resolutions for incarcerated individuals and an efficient resource for legal practitioners.
Three teams - Hibiscus Health, Orca, and The Support Network - tied for second place, winning $25,000 each. SocialWalk won the Audience Choice Award of $5,000.
“As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Rustandy Center, the Edwardson SNVC continues to demonstrate our students' innovative work to make our world more sustainable and equitable,” said Rob Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance and John Edwardson Faculty Director Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. “This year, 17 student-led teams focused on healthcare, sustainability, and equity. Our students have accomplished so much, and I am excited to see how these ventures develop.”
The winners are:
First Prize: Period ($75,000)
Period is a subscription based digital outreach and legal correspondence platform, paid for by attorneys and advocates, that gives incarcerated people free access to legal assistance and advocacy by matching them with attorneys who can review cases for innocence and post-convictions, and with influential advocates who can lead public campaigns on their behalf. (Booth)
Joint Second Place: Hibiscus Health, Orca, The Support Network ($25,000 each)
Hibiscus Health provides urgent and accessible therapeutic interventions for parents suffering from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, a leading cause of maternal mortality in the U.S. (Crown)
Orca is a last-mile shipping company for ecommerce food brands. Through an innovative “circular delivery” model, Orca recovers and reuses cold-chain materials to eliminate harmful waste and reduce costs for its partners. (Booth)
The Support Network empowers college students across the country to create an inclusive community and support each other’s identity, mental wellbeing, and day-to-day lives through peer-facilitated groups and bi-weekly community events. They work with student leaders and administrators to launch effective peer-to-peer support models. (Booth)
Audience Choice Award: SocialWalk ($5,000):
The Audience Choice Award was open to all SNVC teams who advanced to Phase II of the competition and judged by the in-person and online audiences based on videos each team submitted.
SocialWalk is an easy-to-use mobile app that encourages physical activity by allowing users to turn their steps into money for nonprofits through campaigns sponsored by companies’ charitable or CSR programs. SocialWalk provides a low-cost marketplace for smaller nonprofits to connect with corporate sponsors and expand their donor base. (Booth, UChicago Medicine, College)
Sixteen judges with expertise in investing, entrepreneurship, and philanthropy, including several Booth alumni, selected the winners. A full list of judges can be found on the SNVC website.
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 2023 SNVC sponsors can be found here.
“The impact of the SNVC goes far beyond the classroom,” John Edwardson said. “The ventures coming out of the SNVC have gone on to improve lives and communities globally. There is no challenge too daunting for the creativity, passion, and drive of UChicago student social entrepreneurs.”
- Since 2011, the SNVC has helped jump-start more than 150 companies and nonprofits
- SNVC companies have gone on to raise more than $165 million in philanthropic dollars, grant support, and venture capital funding
- Other 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, autism therapy provider AIM Clinics, Chicago-based nonprofit Debate it Forward, and the 2022 winner, together.science.
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.
Tali Griffin, Rustandy Center
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