The University of Chicago and the Grainger College Of Engineering Partner to Expand Undergraduate Track of UChicago’s Accelerator Program

PodU, the first platform for podcasting in Arabic, took home first place at the 2019 College New Venture Challenge finals. Photo credit: Polsky Center archives.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago is expanding the College New Venture Challenge (CNVC), the undergraduate track of its nationally-ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) startup accelerator program by collaborating with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I). In addition to serving College students at UChicago, the CNVC will now serve the startup track of U of I’s City Scholars program, in which students from The Grainger College of Engineering interested in entrepreneurship spend a semester living and studying in Chicago while working on a student-led venture.

“Through this new expansion of the CNVC, students from both institutions have the chance to partner in order to take an idea to market,” said Starr Marcello, AM ’04, MBA ’17, deputy head and executive director of the Polsky Center and adjunct associate professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth. “We are eager to showcase how this unique model of collaboration and sharing of resources will not only benefit our students, but also to put a spotlight on entrepreneurship talent that lives across the state of Illinois.

Students in the City Scholars program will continue to take a full course load of U of I classes through a combination of classes offered in Chicago and online, including the College New Venture Challenge course, which is offered to undergraduates at the Chicago Booth School of Business. This course is the cornerstone of the Startup City Scholars program, and will be offered as a blended section made up of students from the two schools.

“The City Scholars program has been a great success in its first two years, and we are very pleased that the Polsky Center is expanding the College New Venture Challenge to partner with the program,” said Jonathan Makela, associate dean of undergraduate programs for The Grainger College of Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering. “With offerings from our Technology Entrepreneur Center and other offerings throughout the University of Illinois, our Startup City Scholars are ready for the learning opportunities that City Scholars and the College New Venture Challenge provide. Teaming with the University of Chicago and its students is a terrific way to help them solve some of the world’s most challenging problems and creating transformative businesses.”

The CNVC, which began in 2012, has helped College students turn their ideas into viable businesses including Cubii, Fronen, Moneythink, and Quevos. Since 1996, the Polsky Center has helped launch more than 330 startup companies still in operation today that have gone on to raise more than $1 billion in funding and more than $9.5 billion in exits through its NVC program.

The 2019-2020 cohort will kick off in January with 21 teams – 15 from UChicago and 6 from U of I – enrolling in the classroom portion of the program. Ideas advancing to Phase II include a sneaker rental company, an online legal education platform, a variety of application technologies, and an eco-friendly packaged low sugar alcoholic drink. The class will culminate on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at the CNVC Finals where finalist teams will present their business plans to a panel of judges comprised of investors, entrepreneurs, and industry experts. Prizes – which include $100,000 in investment and in-kind services – have helped past CNVC finalists grow into successful businesses.

The 2019-2020 CNVC phase II teams are:

Byto, a platform that enables a seamless and efficient connection between event vendors and individuals looking for gig jobs.

Erhabo, a platform that allows customers in Saudi Arabia to search for and book restaurants based on recommendations.

FreeTitle (U of I), an app allowing artists to share their works and view the works of other artists in the community.

Harmonie Containers, which provides a well-designed, sturdy, biodegradable, and customizable take-out container.

HeadCam, which makes sports headbands with live-streaming cameras inserted inside, to give audiences a first-person perspective.

Ludite, a social and non-subvertable wellness application that uses new software and peer reinforcement to help people use technology more productively.

Momentum, a software technology that takes design as input and outputs production-ready code.

NASADYA (U of I), which connects the electricity and hydrogen generation markets by developing a machine to convert excess electricity into hydrogen.

NoteShare, which incentivizes classmates to share high-quality notes, making it easier to access all classmate’s notes to review difficult concepts for exams.

Own It Technologies (U of I), which facilitates mobile, decentralized skateboarding competitions enabling skaters to compete where they actually skate, the street.

Ready, which designs and creates party-proof garments for women.

RecoMed (U of I), which uses existing data from electronic health records to create personalized predictions of the most relevant health risks for emergent patients.

SAEF Legal Aid, an online legal education platform for those who cannot afford an attorney with family law-related legal issues.

SellerFan, an innovative automated technology platform where influencers and their fans can participate in mutually beneficial partnerships.

Sucker Punch, a low-sugar alcoholic punch packaged in a versatile and eco-friendly stand up drink Pouch.

Supersubs, a student-to-student online marketplace for listing and finding sublets.

Talklet, a walk-in mental healthcare service that’s informal and affordable.

Teneez (U of I), a sneaker rental company. Think Rent the Runway, but for casual sneakerheads.

TrustFlow (U of I), which provides customer demographic analytics for offline retailers, conferences and event holders.

Uncommissioned Design, an online platform where people post ideas for furniture designs to a network of designers and builders.

Women in STEM, which supports young women interested in STEM through building social support networks using high school chapters.

About the City Scholars
City Scholars is an initiative of The Grainger College of Engineering that fills Chicago’s tech pipeline with students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Top 5 undergraduate engineering program.Juniors and Seniors from The Grainger College of Engineering pursue internships in Chicago’s tech sector in fields like software engineering, data science, trading, and analysis. Once accepted and placed with a company, City Scholars spend a semester living, working, and studying in Chicago. Students take a full course-load and are paid for their work. Companies get a first look at top students and a chance to train students throughout a 16-week semester as well as traditional summer internships. With the addition of the Startup City Scholars track, students can take advantage of Chicago’s many resources for entrepreneurs encouraging them to remain in Chicago to build businesses after graduation.

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