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 or University of Chicago faculty researchers who are specifically looking for talented students to serve as business leads and help commercialize their inventions.
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 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 graduate students need to apply to the NVC with a team in the Winter Quarter and accepted teams enroll in the Spring Quarter class, which will provide support to advance the business and connect with investors.
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 graduate students need to apply to the SNVC with a team in the Winter Quarter and accepted teams can enroll in the Spring Quarter class, which will provide support to advance the business and connect with investors.
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. UChicago graduate students can join one of the Compass teams either as a Business Development Fellow or a Science Innovation Fellow.
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.
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.