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NVC Investment Pool Swells to $1.73 Million After Additional Funding Rolls In; First-Place Winner Andes STR Gets $681,000

Andes STR wins 2021 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge

The record investment pool in the 25th annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) jumped to $1.73 million this week after investors put additional money into the finalist teams.

The award from the NVC, a program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business that is run by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is the largest in the nation among business school student startup competitions.

The 12 finalist teams received $1.6 million in investment on the day of the finals June 3, a record for the contest and a major increase from last year’s investment total of $1 million.

Another $130,000 rolled in during the week that followed, in part as a result of a Second Look event debuted at the request of investors who didn’t participate as finals judges. Each of the 12 finalist teams was made available Tuesday to answer questions from investors who were invited to attend Second Look.

Funding for startups competing in the NVC has grown markedly over the past several years. Just five years ago, the NVC investment pool totaled $285,000.

The 2021 winners, with their updated investment totals, are:

Rattan L. Khosa First Place Prize ($681,250): Andes STR is a modern property management company that offers people a turnkey solution to buy, furnish and manage properties in the short-term rental market, providing customers with more flexibility and higher returns. The total includes $180,000 from the Khosa Prize. (Team: Sebastian Rivas, Kristina Flathers, Matias Duhart, and Jiamin Yan).

Second Place ($388,750): phlaxis is a biotech platform that aims to fundamentally change the landscape of food allergies with a novel approach – a patented technology called “inverse vaccine” to cure and prevent peanut and other food allergies. The investment includes the $40,000 Moonshot Prize. (Team: Jeffrey A. Hubbell, Shijie Cao, Hikaru Ihara, and Josette Chang)

Third Place ($203,750): Vetted is an annual membership service that empowers pet parents to take control of their pets’ health, guiding them through pet parenthood at home, on the go, and in the vet’s office. The prize includes the contest’s first $5,000 People’s Choice award. (Team: Maya Shaposhnik Cadena, Ashley Brooks, Dr. Shelby Smyly, Geva Bidner, Greg Weiss, Delaney Wing, Seamus Naughton, Kealy Fitzsimmons, and Lindsey Whitlock)

Fourth Place ($96,250): Resette custom blends makeup and skincare into one product to simplify routines and offer personalized skinwear with benefits. (Team: Whitney McElwain, Veena Krishnan, Anna Simmons, Sicely Mireri, and Alana Giedraitis)

Fifth Place ($95,000): Aina lets shoppers virtually try on clothes directly from a retailer’s website using augmented reality (AR) technology with features like real-time view, size-level accuracy, and interactive garment rendering.(Team: Nisha Saboo, Pritesh Kanani, Tess Glassman-Kaufman, and Shazia Ijaz)

Sixth Place ($77,500) ML Tech is a high-frequency trading (HFT) platform that connects crypto investors with top researchers worldwide. The platform leverages cutting-edge AI solutions and allows researchers to produce new strategies at an industry-leading pace. (Team: Leo Mindyuk, Markus Leballeux, Aniruddha Deshpande, Ying Xu, John Wismer, Haoyang Wang, Ivan Khurudzhi, Amrutha Sivakumar, Mathew Kapela, Chloe Fu, Qi He, and Yalin Yang)

Seventh Place ($50,000) Annuity Risk provides risk management solutions for indexed annuities, which represent a fast-growing market. The platform intends to empower annuity providers with advanced tool sets for hedging, derivative valuation and machine learning for customer data analytics. (Team: Gaurav Singhal, Brian Klein, Charles Chong, Soo Jin Jeong, Paulo Andrade Blanc, and Manik Pasricha)

Eighth Place ($45,000): StoryEasel is a memory preservation platform that empowers users to create, share, and preserve precious family stories and memories together with friends and family. (Team: Niso Moyo, Tendaaishe Chitima, Manish Rahatkar, Mike Mokodanski, Chinzo Davaatseren, Mqondisi Ndlovu, Stephanie Regimbal, Sneha Vasudevan, Rayna Palsule, Simone Haradence, and Ben Rachman)

Ninth Place ($32,500) PainNavigator is an evidence-based pain management app that provides a customized, holistic program to help those struggling with chronic pain. The program includes exercise therapy, yoga, wellness strategies, and pain management education. (Team: Dr. Ankur Dave, Dr. Konstantinos Kostas, Kelly McKay, Priya Shah, Austin Bostock, Gandhi Bhakthavachalam, and Elanda Goduni)

Three finalist teams each received a $20,000 investment. They are:

  • deetz, 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.
  • Ping, a B2B, SaaS, wearable tech company that focuses on safety, wellness, and social connection for senior citizens.
  • SHEVOLVE, which makes nutrition supplements more convenient and more enjoyable for women through midlife and beyond by packing essential nutrients in one tasty bite.

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. Unlike many of its peers, the NVC is both a credit-bearing MBA class at Chicago Booth as well as a business plan competition.

Nearly 370 companies that went through the NVC are still active and thriving today, including household names such as Grubhub, Simple Mills and Braintree/Venmo. They have raised more than $1.2 billion, achieved $8.5 billion in mergers and exits and created more than 13,300 jobs. More than half of those jobs – 7,550 – were created by companies based in Chicago.

Since its founding in 1996, 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.

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