Simple Mills, RoomVa, and Hello Tractor Take Top Prizes at Annual Business Competition; Winners Receive More Than $313,000 in Cash Prizes and Business Services
Chicago (May 30, 2014) —The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and its Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Social Enterprise Initiative are pleased to announce the winners of the Edward L. Kaplan, '71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) and the John Edwardson, '72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the school's premier start-up program.
Winners of the 2014 NVC:
• RoomVa and Simple Mills tied for first place. Each company received $30,000 in prize money. RoomVa provides online reservation capabilities for small family-run hotels. Simple Mills makes delicious almond flour baking mixes with simple, nutrient-rich ingredients.
• AutoBike placed second and received $20,000 in prize money. AutoBike makes riding a bike fun again via a "smart" automatic transmission system.
• CreditServe placed third and received $10,000. CreditServe gives service members better access to credit through a dual-sided network of active-duty military borrowers and institutional and individual investors.
• HighStride placed fourth and received a $5,000 prize. HighStride is a scalable web and mobile app that provides personalized training to ensure that each runner successfully crosses his or her finish line.
"This year's program comprised a diversity of ideas ranging from manufacturing to health-care services to productivity-enhancing tools," said Ellen Rudnick, executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "We were pleased with the progress and the dedication that all of the teams in the program made—not just those that reached the finals."
Winners of the 2014 SNVC, which launches businesses with a social impact mission and a plan for financial sustainability, are:
• Hello Tractor won first place, receiving a cash prize of $30,000. Hello Tractor rents two-wheel tractors to small farmers in Nigeria to increase crop yields and combat against income and food insecurity.
• Moxie Leadership Academy placed second and received $20,000 in funding. Moxie brings high-quality summer programming to middle-school girls in low-income communities, building the emotional intelligence and STEM skills necessary for long-term success.
This year's finalists include FarmStacker, HeroTechForge, InterChange, and YogaCare.
"My congratulations to the winners and participants of the 2014 John Edwardson, '72, Social New Venture Challenge," said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance, deputy dean for the Part-Time MBA Programs, and faculty codirector of the Social Enterprise Initiative. "This year's winners succeeded in finding the combination of viable, scalable business and significant impact required of effective social enterprises. I look forward to seeing their next moves."
About the New Venture Challenge
Launched in 1996, the New Venture Challenge was designed to help students build and run new businesses. It has expanded to include four tracks, offering tailored programming to meet the needs of the University of Chicago’s diverse student body:
• Edward L. Kaplan, '71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) The original track of the NVC has helped launch successful, high-growth companies.
• John Edwardson, '72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) Co-organized by the Polsky Center and the Social Enterprise Initiative at Chicago Booth, the SNVC helps students launch for-profit and nonprofit ventures with social-impact missions and models for financial sustainability.
• Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) In 2008, the NVC added a track for Executive MBA Program students from the Chicago Booth London, Singapore, and Chicago campuses. An online platform allows globally-based alumni to participate as mentors.
• College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) The Polsky Center supports the CNVC to help UChicago undergraduates craft innovative and sustainable for-profit and non-profit enterprises.
The programs span the full academic year. In the fall, more than 100 teams applied to the SNVC and NVC tracks, which culminated in day-long finals competitions on May 27 and May 29, respectively. Fifteen finalist teams presented their start-ups to panels of distinguished judges, comprising established entrepreneurs, angel investors, and venture capitalists, with each team vying for its share of over $313,000 in cash and in-kind prizes. In-kind prizes for the winning teams include legal services, professional consulting, and office space in the ARCH Venture Partners New Business Incubator, housed within the Polsky Center, and 1871 in downtown Chicago.
Since its launch in 1996, the New Venture Challenge program has awarded more than $1.28 million in cash prizes, plus more than $2 million in business services. Over the past 18 years, the program helped launch more than 100 companies, which have gone on to raise over $365 million in funding and have created several thousands of jobs. NVC alumni companies include AgileMD, Base, BenchPrep, BloomNation, Braintree, brightroom, Brilliant, CareMerge, GrubHub, InContext Solutions, LuminAID, MedSpeed, and Moneythink, among others.
The NVC is made possible through the generous support of corporate and individual sponsors. The title sponsor is Edward L. Kaplan, '71, founder, former chairman, and CEO of Zebra Technologies. He has sponsored the NVC since its inception and endowed the program in 2012. Kaplan also serves on the Polsky Center's Entrepreneurship Advisory Board.
The SNVC is grateful for the generous support of John Edwardson, '72, retired chairman and chief executive of CDW, who endowed the program in 2013, as well as other individual and corporate sponsors. Edwardson is also a supporter of the Chicago Booth Social Enterprise Initiative, which includes as part of its programming helping students launch and grow businesses in the social sector.
For a full list of program supporters, visit the NVC website.
About the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
The Polsky Center advances the knowledge and practice of entrepreneurship and innovation across the University of Chicago. The center fosters entrepreneurial learning and interdisciplinary collaboration by delivering: cutting-edge curriculum, frameworks and best practices, innovative hands-on learning experiences, leading faculty research, conferences, mentorship, and community and outreach programs. For more information, visit the Polsky Center website.
About the Social Enterprise Initiative
Launched in 2012, the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) at Chicago Booth supports the aspirations of students and alumni to impact societal issues and furthers research on how institutions help solve social problems. Through ongoing curricular development, alumni and student programming, and support of faculty pursuits, SEI seeks to foster both the leadership on the ground and rigorous academic research which are vital to addressing the complex issues our society faces. To learn more, visit the Social Enterprise Initiative website.