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12 Startups to Compete for At Least $1 Million in the 25th Anniversary Finals of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is pleased to announce the 12 teams selected to compete in the finals of the 25th annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), one of the nation’s oldest and richest student startup accelerators.

Founded in 1996 at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the NVC has graduated nearly 370 companies that remain active today, including household names such as Grubhub, Braintree and Simple Mills. They have raised more than $1.2 billion and achieved $8.5 billion in mergers and exits.

On June 3, the 2021 finalist teams will present their business plans to a panel of judges and investors for a chance at investment. This year’s investment pool is at least $1 million, on track to be the largest in the contest’s history.

The prize pool got a significant boost thanks to the Rattan L. Khosa, ‘79, First Place Prize, introduced four years ago, and has kept building since.

“The NVC has experienced great growth over the past decade, both in the competitiveness of the teams and the interest of investors,” said NVC cofounder Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director of the Polsky Center. “Just five years ago the investment pool was $285,000, so to exceed $1 million now is a true testament to the program’s success.”

The finalists were selected from a cohort of 29 teams that participated in the NVC, which is a credit-bearing MBA class at Chicago Booth as well as a business plan competition.

The NVC has consistently been ranked as a top seed accelerator, alongside Techstars and Y Combinator, which is unique for a program focused on students.

“We are super impressed by the depth and breadth of the businesses of our 12 finalists,” said Mark Tebbe, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth.  “In these challenging circumstances, the teams have made substantial progress in building those businesses. We are looking forward to an exciting 25th anniversary final.”

The finals will take place virtually from 8:30 am to 5:30 p.m. June 3. Registration is free and open to the public.

The finalists are:

Aina // AINA is a simple mobile application and easy-to-integrate web API that turns any room into a fitting room. Leveraging cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) technology, Aina empowers shoppers to try on apparel anytime and anywhere, allowing them to see how a particular item fits their body in real-time, accurate down to size level.

Andes STR // Andes STR is a modern property management company that offers young professionals a turnkey solution to manage their properties in the short-term rental market, providing customers with more flexibility and higher returns than long-term tenants.

Annuity Risk // Annuity Risk is a SaaS company focused on the indexed annuity market. Its product is designed to help firms manage their liability management operations, with a focus on hedging optimization and customer data insights.

deetz // deetz is a mobile app for people to find out what’s happening in their community in the moment and for businesses to promote specials and events.

ML Tech // ML Tech is a high-frequency trading (HFT) platform that connects experienced researchers with institutional capital. The platform leverages cutting-edge AI solutions and allows researchers to produce new strategies at an industry-leading pace.

PainNavigator // Pain Navigator is an evidence-based pain management app that uses a proprietary, adaptive learning algorithm to integrate and customize first-line, holistic therapies to help users improve their pain and function. It caters to those with non-surgical pain and healthcare providers looking to implement CDC-recommended treatments for their patients.

Phlaxis // Phlaxis is developing a vaccine to prevent peanut and other food allergies through a state-of-the-art technology called inverse vaccination.

Ping // Ping is a smartwatch for seniors that captures their health data and alerts their family in real-time on abnormal measurements.

Resette // Resette is a beauty brand that custom blends makeup and skincare into one product, dubbed “skinwear,” to simplify routines and offer personalized beauty with benefits.

SHEVOLVE // SHEVOLVE redefines how Gen X and Boomer women engage with nutrition supplements to help them thrive through menopause and beyond.

StoryEasel // StoryEasel isa SaaS-based storytelling solution designed exclusively for preserving users’ heritage and culture. The centralized platform allows users to create, share, and preserve precious family stories and memories plus invite family and friends to help expand and enrich their story.

Vetted // Vetted provides pet parents with peace of mind by supplying trustworthy, affordable, and convenient preventative pet care through its subscription service and mobile application with preventative care services, 24/7 at-home tech monitoring, and accessible, centralized pet medical records.

Since its early days as a pioneer of student startup accelerators, the NVC has grown to include five distinct tracks. The Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge is open to all graduate students at the University of Chicago. The College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) is for University of Chicago undergraduates. The Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) is for executive MBA students at Chicago Booth’s Hong Kong and London campuses as well as Chicago. The John Edwardson, ‘72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) is for nonprofits or startups focused on a social mission. And the Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) is open to all University of Chicago alumni.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the accelerator, the Polsky Center launched a podcast series featuring interviews with notable alumni of the NVC.

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