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Polsky Center leader Starr Marcello testifies before Congress

Starr Marcello, executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, testified before the United States House of Representatives Small Business Committee on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.

The hearing, entitled Empowering Small Businesses: The Accelerator Model, examined how business accelerators help entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses grow and create jobs. The Polsky Center was invited by Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) to speak about the process and successes of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge.

The New Venture Challenge has been recognized as a top-ranked university accelerator in the country for the past two years by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Now in its 21st year, the NVC has helped launch more than 160 start-up companies still in business today, including national brands such as GrubHub and Braintree. NVC companies have raised over $600 million in venture capital funding, and have created more than $4 billion in value for investors through mergers and exits.

“The NVC’s success can be attributed to its unique structure and the environment in which it operates. As a leading research university in the third-largest city in the U.S., the University of Chicago is an intellectual destination for the most innovative minds in the world,” said Marcello in her prepared testimony. “The reputation of the University, its Booth School of Business, and increasingly, the New Venture Challenge, draws creative, entrepreneurial talent to us. Getting top people into the accelerator is the first step in getting successful businesses to emerge from the program.”

Marcello, in both her testimony and in response to questions from the committee, spoke about the important role that accelerators like the New Venture Challenge have on both small businesses and the greater economy.

“Every entrepreneur I have worked with – hundreds over my 12 years at the Polsky Center – has been driven to create value in the world. To solve a problem people are faced with, and to find ways of making people’s lives better. Whether someone is a founder of a small business or a founder of a high-growth venture, these entrepreneurs are dedicating everything they have in pursuit of their dreams. It is an honor to do the work I do every day – to support these founder’s ambitions, and to see the effects not only on Chicago, but throughout the world,” said Marcello.

In addition to Marcello’s testimony, witnesses included Darrin M. Redus, Senior Vice President, Minority Business Accelerator, Carolyn Rodz, Founder and CEO, Circular Board, and Dr. Stephen S. Tang, President and CEO, University City Science Center.

Full video of the committee hearing can be viewed here and a transcript of Marcello’s testimony can be found here.

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