It’s High Season for New Venture Challenge Finals. Watch and Learn From the Startups Competing For Investment.
The end of spring quarter is high season for the New Venture Challenge, the Polsky Center’s flagship accelerator program. From mid-May through early June, four of the five tracks of the New Venture Challenge host their finals, doling out investment to budding startups that last year totaled more than $2 million. Most will be in person for the first time since 2019.
The action started Thursday with the 4th annual Alumni New Venture Challenge, the youngest of the tracks, and culminates June 2 with the 26th annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, the oldest. The 15thannual Global New Venture Challenge and 12th annual John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge both take place June 1.
Only the College New Venture Challenge, which this year marked its 10th anniversary, holds its finals earlier in the year.
“This is my favorite time of year because we see all the hard work pay off in the progress these startups have made over the course of their programs,” said Steve Kaplan, Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director for the Polsky Center. “These entrepreneurial students and alumni bring diverse ideas, infectious energy, and sophisticated business plans that routinely dazzle the judges.”
Founded at Chicago Booth in 1996, the New Venture Challenge began as a pioneering business plan competition for MBA students and later morphed into a credit-bearing spring course capped by a contest for funding. Ranked nationally as a top university startup accelerator, it has supported over 500 still-active companies that have raised $1.9 billion in funding and achieved over $8.9 billion in exits, including household names like Tovala, Foxtrot, Braintree, Simple Mills, and Grubhub.
Over the years the accelerator spawned four additional tracks serving distinct UChicago audiences, each with an investment pool of at least $100,000: the Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) for Executive MBA students; the Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) for nonprofits and ventures with a social mission; the College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) for undergraduates; and the Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) for UChicago alumni.
“We are looking forward to the celebrations ahead, especially as we gather in person for the first time since 2019,” said MarkTebbe, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth who teaches the NVC. “The finals are always unpredictably exciting and educational for anyone interested in launching a startup.”
Last year the original track for MBA students, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), became the richest business school accelerator in the nation, awarding $1.73 million in investment to the finalists. The Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize went to Andes STR, a proptech startup that has since inked a deal to manage an $80 million real estate portfolio.
The startups that participate in the NVC programs span a wide range of industries, from fintech to biotech to deep tech to old-fashioned food. Getting accepted into the various NVC programs is a competitive process, and then only a fraction of participants are selected to advance to the finals to present their business plans to a panel of judges.
Judges, who have professional backgrounds as entrepreneurs, investors, or industry executives, ask the teams pointed questions as they evaluate the presentations and then deliberate behind closed doors before choosing how to award the investment pool.
The finals of all tracks are free and open to the public to observe. Here are the details with links to register:
Alumni New Venture Challenge — May 12, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (virtual)
John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge — June 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (in person at the Harper Center with livestream option)
Global New Venture Challenge — June 1, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. (in person at the Gleacher Center with livestream option)
Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge — June 2, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (in person at the Harper Center with livestream option)