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My Art Cache wins first place and largest-ever prize of $365,000 at the 2019 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge

Photos of the New Venture Challenge on Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Matt Marton)

It’s not every day that the phrases “cricket-based superfood powder” and “manufacturing solution for the laser chip marketing” are heard in the same setting, but on Thursday, June 6 those were just a few impressive and innovative ideas being pitched at the 23rdannual finals of the Polsky Center’s nationally-recognized Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC).

For the first time in program history, 12 teams presented their business plans for a chance at $850,000 – the largest total cash prize pool ever awarded at the NVC and surpassing last year’s prize pool of $700,000. The day started with $420,000 during deliberations, several judges decided to add to it, making it the highest cash prize pool ever given at the challenge. And, thanks to a gift from Chicago Booth alum Rattan L. Khosa, the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize guaranteed the winner would be taking home at least $150,000. Due to an impressive lineup of finalists, an additional $500,000 was added to the pool prize during the deliberation process.

Photos of the New Venture Challenge on Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Chicago. (Photo by Matt Marton)

The top-ranked accelerator program that at one time in its 23-year history only selected 10 teams to advance to the finals has had to open up more spots in the finals to teams because of the caliber of teams applying and participating in the program in recent years.

“It’s gotten too hard to choose and that means that teams who didn’t get into the finals may do very well,” said Chicago Booth’s Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and the Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director for the Polsky Center Steven N. Kaplan.

Winners of the 2019 NVC include:

My Art Cache, a private online matching platform for art industry professionals, dealers, and buyers to enable fine art dealers to capture lost sales and liquidate “hidden” inventory won the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize and $365,000, which included $150,000 from Mr. Khosa as well as $215,000 from 8 additional investors.

GGLeagues, an eSports league that promotes community among gamers through structured competitive recreational leagues and live in person gaming events finished in second place and took home $220,000, including $45,000 from the Polsky Center and $175,000 from 7 additional investors. The leagues allow gamers to play eSports in person with other gamers in their community, similar to city-wide recreational sports leagues.

Aegis AI, an AI software that automatically identifies guns and public safety threats in security camera feeds to notify security and law enforcement took home third place and $155,000, including $45,000 from the Polsky Center and $110,000 from individual investors. The company’s system detects guns, intruders, and abandoned objects in real-time, turning any security camera system into a threat-detecting smart camera system without requiring additional hardware.

Five to Nine, a platform that increases workplace connectivity and inclusion while leveraging analytics to enhance the employee experience was awarded $30,000 from the Polsky Center.

Eight finalists: Africana Airlines, Airspace, Apollo Foods, Beltech, Digital Adventures, Iris Light Technologies, Kambista, and Veda Grace each took home $10,000 from the Polsky Center.

Africana Airlines is making travel convenient and affordable in Africa. Airspace upgrades the​ private office experience with all the services, amenities, and technology it needs. Apollo Foods is a Mexican snack company creating healthy snacks using local superfoods. Beltech is developing a safer, long-lasting, and cheaper lithium-ion batteries for electronics and electric vehicles consumer. Digital Adventures teaches kids through a tech-powered, project-based approach to develop coding and engineering skills. Iris Light Technologies is delivering innovative manufacturing solutions to silicon photonics (light chip) market. Kambista is a digital platform that exchanges the Peruvian Sol and US Dollar. Veda Grace uses imaging technology to curate custom cosmetic prescription products.

The NVC finals is one of the marquee events of UChicago Innovation Fest. Now in its fourth year, UChicago Innovation Fest (May 1-June 9, 2019) celebrates pioneering discovery and entrepreneurial endeavors at the University of Chicago. Led by the Polsky Center, the month of events, workshops, and accelerator programs highlights the breadth and impact of innovation at UChicago in the areas of entrepreneurship and research commercialization, scientific advancements, and social and global impact.

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