Polsky Center’s Alumni New Venture Challenge Returns

Latin America added as new regional hub for Polsky’s top-ranked accelerator program

Founded by Christopher Gay, MBA ’09, Care Advisors took home first place and $65,000 from the inaugural Alumni Venture Challenge. Care Advisors helps hospitals get paid by automating the manual process of enrolling patients in Medicaid.

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago is once again expanding its nationally-ranked accelerator—the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC). The Alumni New Venture Challenge is returning for 2020 and will now be run in six geographies—the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America.

Last year, the Polsky Center launched the Alumni New Venture Challenge, a fifth track of the NVC program, to support UChicago alumni in five different regional hubs. After a successful first year, the Polsky Center is bringing back the Alumni New Venture Challenge and adding Latin America as a new regional hub for 2020.

With more than 182,000 University of Chicago alumni worldwide, the Polsky Center created the Alumni New Venture Challenge as a way of supporting any UChicago alum around the world who is in the process of launching a company. Alumni must apply and only the top teams will advance to Phase II where they will receive support and local programming in each region. Then, each region will host a semi-finals competition where judges will select the top teams that will advance to the global finals. The global finals will be held in Chicago on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

A Successful Track Record

The Polsky Center’s New Venture Challenge is a top-ranked accelerator program, an honor shared by other prestigious accelerators such as Y Combinator and Techstars. Since 1996, the Polsky Center has helped to launch more than 330 startup companies that have gone on to raise more than $1 billion in funding and more than $7.5 billion in mergers and exits. Grubhub, Braintree/Venmo and Simple Mills are examples of three companies that got their start through the NVC.

“Over the past two decades, we have developed a model that helps our students successfully launch a viable business through our New Venture Challenge,” said Starr Marcello, AM ’04, MBA ’17, deputy head and executive director of the Polsky Center. Marcello is also an adjunct associate professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business responsible for teaching the College New Venture Challenge, a track of the NVC for UChicago undergraduates. “We knew we could take what had been a successful program for our students and bring it to our alumni.”

Other tracks include the traditional NVC—the original track—which is open to all current UChicago graduate students; the Social NVC, which the Polsky Center runs in partnership with the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth and is open to all current UChicago graduate students working on either for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises with a social impact mission; the Global NVC, which is designed for current Booth Executive MBA students in Chicago, Hong Kong and London; and the College NVC, which is open to all current UChicago undergraduate students.

Last year, 85 alumni teams from across the world applied to the inaugural Alumni New Venture Challenge. Of these, 35 teams were selected to advance to Phase II where they received local mentoring and support. Semi-finals were then held in each region and eight companies were selected to advance to the day-long Alumni New Venture Challenge global finals, which took place in Chicago on May 2, 2019. At the finals, the eight teams presented in front of an esteemed panel of top investors and competed for $125,000 in investment. In the end, Care Advisors, a company from the Midwest, won first place and $65,000 in prize money.


How to Apply

Applications for the 2020 Alumni New Venture Challenge are due on January 6, 2020.  UChicago alumni who are interested in participating should review the application process and eligibility requirements on the Polsky Center website. Alumni are encouraged to watch both the info session and how to apply webinar recordings before submitting their online application. Alumni can submit their online applications here.



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