IDEATION & TEAM FORMATION
If you are interested in entrepreneurship, but do not yet have an idea, the Polsky Center can connect you with other student startup teams participating in the College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) or University of Chicago faculty researchers who are looking for students to help commercialize their inventions.
One of the most exciting ways to experience entrepreneurship while you are a student at the College is to participate in the Polsky Center’s College New Venture Challenge (CNVC). The CNVC supports University of Chicago College students who are interested in launching a startup. You can find a team or promote your skills through our online teambuilding interest form.
The Collaboratorium unites UChicago students with researchers, technologists, and faculty who want to explore the commercialization opportunities and business applications of their work. A great opportunity for Booth students, other graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, alumni, and faculty to connect, the program includes an opportunity for scientists and researchers to pitch as well as network with students about their cutting-edge research and technologies.
MENTORS, BUSINESS EXPERTS & ADVISORS
If you have a business idea or company and would like to get feedback and support, the Polsky Center can connect you with top business experts, entrepreneurs, and investors for one-on-one appointments.
Students are able to easily book one-on-one meetings with industry experts and experienced entrepreneurs who provide critical guidance, feedback, and connections. Fill out our “Get Started with the Polsky Center” online form to subscribe to our weekly Mentorship email (sent on Tuesdays) to book appointments directly with our list of mentors.
The Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Investors-in-Residence programs provide mentorship and coaching to University of Chicago students. Successful Chicago-based entrepreneurs are available to meet throughout the academic year, and have provided key insight and mentorship to dozens of companies. We also host regular small group sessions and workshops with the EIRs and IIRs over breakfast and lunch.
PROGRAMS & ACCELERATORS
If you have a business idea and are ready to move it forward, you can apply to one of our Polsky programs and startup accelerators.
The College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) is the dedicated track of the Polsky Center’s nationally-ranked New Venture Challenge. It supports University of Chicago (and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign through a formal partnership) College students who are interested in launching a startup. All teams accepted into the CNVC Phase II are eligible to enroll in the CNVC class, which is offered in the Winter quarter through the University’s Booth School of Business. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the CNVC, which has helped launched successful companies such as Cubii, Sokowatch, MoneyThink, Quevos, and Fronen.
The Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) is a top-ranked accelerator program in the nation. Companies that have been successfully launched through the NVC include Grubhub, Braintree/Venmo, and Simple Mills. Currently enrolled College students may have an opportunity to intern for an NVC team in the Spring academic quarter.
The John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) is the social track of the New Venture Challenge and is run by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation. It has helped businesses and nonprofits like LuminAID, Hello Tractor, and BallotReady. Currently enrolled College students may have an opportunity to intern for an SNVC team in the Spring academic quarter.
Built on a 25-year history of launching successful ventures, Compass is the Polsky Center’s deep tech accelerator program for University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory researchers interested in launching new startup companies. College students may apply through a competitive application process to become a Business Development Fellow or a Science Innovation Fellow in support of a Compass startup company.
The Polsky Summer Accelerator program gives student teams the opportunity to work intensively and solely on their businesses and social enterprises in a collaborative and dynamic environment over the summer. There are two tracks of the accelerator: The Build Accelerator allows students to spend their summer building the key elements of their venture, and validating assumptions around their market or customers. The Launch Accelerator allows more advanced startups to spend their summer fundraising for their venture, selling, and gaining and maintaining momentum.
VENTURE CAPITAL TRAINING & PROGRAMS
If you are looking to pursue a career in venture capital and gain some hands-on experience, the Polsky Center has resources to help.
The Innovation Fund Associates (IFA) program works alongside the Polsky Center’s George Shultz Innovation Fund. Student associates are trained to act as venture capitalists, performing due diligence on innovative ventures coming out of the University of Chicago ecosystem. The program is structured as an apprenticeship, where associates learn-by-doing as part of an interdisciplinary team. Associates deep dive into one investment opportunity per cycle and get a close-up look at the commercialization process and what it takes to move a technology from the lab into real world application.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP TRAINING & WORKSHOPS
If you are looking for support on a specific area of your business such as marketing, fundraising or dividing founders’ equity, the Polsky Center hosts dozens of workshops throughout the year, some of which are available on demand.
The Polsky Center’s Entrepreneurship Essentials (E2) is a workshop series is designed to help entrepreneurs get specific support on an area of their business. Taught by subject-matter experts, the E2 workshops range in everything from marketing strategy, sales, competitive analysis, and more.
Polsky On Demand is an online portal that provides access to some of Polsky’s world-class business and entrepreneurship educational workshops for free. Browse our digital library below for educational content around entrepreneurship essentials, small business workshops, entrepreneurship through acquisition (ETA), and much more.
How did Grubhub grow from a startup to a $7 billion food delivery giant? How did Braintree get a jump on the mobile payment market? The founders of those and other successful companies delve into their entrepreneurial journeys in a podcast series from the Polsky Center. Get inspired by their stories and listen now.
INCUBATION & PROTOTYPING
If you are looking for office space or a place to work on your business, the Polsky Exchange is a 34,000 square foot incubator space for startups. The Polsky Exchange includes a state-of-the-art fabrication and prototyping lab.
Operated by the Polsky Center, the Polsky Exchange is a 34,000 square foot startup hub featuring co-working space, a state-of-the-art Fabrication Lab, and a full calendar of programming and workshops designed to help entrepreneurs translate their ideas and technologies into startups.
NOTE: Beginning Sept. 28, 2021, the Polsky Exchange North building will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9AM-5PM for authorized users working on a startup as part of a Polsky Center program.
The Polsky Fab Lab, located in the Polsky Exchange South building, offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to transform their ideas into physical objects to share, test and perfect. With a full suite of state-of-the-art equipment, the Fab Lab gives members access to tools needed to translate between digital and physical design.
NOTE: The Polsky Fab Lab is currently operating on a limited capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Authorized users may be eligible for access.
If you are looking to raise funding for your startup, the Polsky Center can help you connect with the venture capital and investor community.
Student-led startups that are accepted into one of Polsky’s accelerator programs may be eligible for startup investment in the form of a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE). SAFE is a standard convertible equity investment instrument first introduced and used by Y Combinator for seed funding. Polsky Center programs that offer SAFE investments include all tracks of the New Venture Challenge, the Polsky Accelerator program, and the Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship (PF3).
The Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship (PF3) is a resource available to graduating University of Chicago students who are committed to growing a company after graduation. Student entrepreneurs will receive $24,000 in funding in the form of a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE) to sustain momentum as they continue to work on their ventures.
The University of Chicago has set aside $25 million from its endowment to invest in startups led by UChicago faculty, students, staff and alumni. The Office of Investments, which manages the University’s endowment, oversees the UChicago Startup Investment Program along with support from the Polsky Center. Through the UChicago Startup Investment Program, the University may decide to co-invest alongside an established venture capital firm that is leading the company’s investment round.