Alumni New Venture Challenge Awards First Place to UNLISTED, a Startup Connecting Home Buyers with Off-Market Properties
The winner of the Polsky Center’s 4th annual Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) is a Midwest startup that helps home buyers find their dream home with a secret weapon: cookies.
UNLISTED, whose founder, Katie Hill, MBA ’13, is based in Dayton, Ohio, was awarded $40,000 in investment for winning first place in the 2022 ANVC, a business plan competition open to all University of Chicago alumni.
It was among eight finalist teams that presented their business plans to a panel of judges during a virtual finals event Thursday for a chance at part of a $100,000 investment pool.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Hill, who received her executive MBA from Chicago Booth. “The investment is great, but the people I’ve met and the guidance I’ve received is even more transformative.
Founded last year, UNLISTED is a software platform that helps homebuyers connect with the owners of off-market properties they covet by sending a personalized mailing inviting them to join the platform to chat one-on-one about their future buying and selling plans. The vanilla frosted cookies included in the mailing are key to softening the introduction, which can lead to paid referrals to real estate agents and data collection on users’ future intentions for specific properties.
Hill expects the service to expand housing inventory at a time it is at historic lows and give more control to buyers.
“This ANVC win will bolster UNLISTED as we continue to develop bold real estate solutions for buyers, sellers, and the industry,” she said.
The ANVC, a global program operating in six regions around the world, kicked off in February with the selection of 25 startups to participate in the accelerator. This spring the teams competed in regional semi-finals events – in Asia-Pacific, EMEA, Latin America, and the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest of the United States – and the winners of each region advanced to Thursday’s finals.
Four of the eight finalists received investment:
First Place // $40,000 — UNLISTED (Midwest)
// UNLISTED is a paradigm-shifting software platform that allows home buyers to express interest in off-market properties for current or future consideration by homeowners.
Team Lead: Katie Hill, MBA ‘13
Second Place // $30,000 — Juju Spirits (West Coast)
// JUJU Spirits makes alcoholic beverages that celebrate Asian flavors and culture.
Team Lead: Steven Tang, BA ‘12
Third Place // $20,000 — Digital Keeper (Latin America)
// Digital Keeper offers cybersecurity-as-a-service for startups and small and medium Businesses (SMBs) in Latin America.
Team Lead: Luis Navarro, MPP ‘15
Fourth Place // $10,000 — Solay (Midwest)
// Solay is a telemedicine service that treats psoriasis and atopic dermatitis using a new, personalized home version of the Goeckerman therapy.
Team Lead: Shawn Thomas, MBA ‘15
“Congratulations to all the teams for their incredible effort and strong presentations at the ANVC Finals. They really impressed the judges with their passion, drive, and traction,” said Gorana Kolar, a senior associate director at the Polsky Center who oversees its alumni initiatives.
“It has been a pleasure getting to work with this group of alumni entrepreneurs from across the globe,” Kolar said. “They have blown me away with their hard work, determination, and coachability and I am excited to follow their progress and successes.”
The ANVC is the youngest of five tracks of the New Venture Challenge, a top ranked university accelerator founded at Chicago Booth in 1996. Each of the five tracks serves a distinct university audience: The original Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, now in its 26th year, is for MBA students; the Global New Venture Challenge, now in its 15th year, is for Executive MBA students; the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture, now 12 years old, is for nonprofits or ventures with a social mission; and the College New Venture Challenge, which is marking its 10thanniversary, is for UChicago undergraduates.
The overall program has supported 500-plus startups that are still active today. They have raised nearly $2 billion and achieved $8.9 billion in exits.
“Offering a program like this to alumni is really meaningful,” Hill said. “I don’t fit the mold of a typical tech startup founder — I’m a single mom, in my 40’s, 10 years past my executive MBA program. The Polsky Center is breaking through the barriers of the expected and removing limitations so that great ideas from diverse founders can thrive.”