New Venture Challenge

New Venture Challenge

Portfolio and Past Winners

Companies that previously participated in the New Venture Challenge program can be found by clicking on a cohort year below:

#PolskyProud to have supported:

AIM Clinics

Autism in Motion (AIM) Clinics provides the gold standard autism therapy to children in rural US communities. AIM Clinics seeks to purposefully focus on markets where the shortage of therapy is the most severe and the autism care ecosystem is least developed and deliver high-quality, evidence-based ABA therapy to children in those underserved communities. Inspired by the organization’s clinical director who turned to ABA therapy for her two sons diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, founder, George Boghos, worked to provide this form of therapy to all families searching for support. With tailored treatment for each individual patient, AIM hopes to maximize potential for all parties involved. By helping children hone their communication, social, academic and life skills, AIM works towards giving each family security in knowing their child has opportunities and can operate independently. 



  • Founded by George Boghos MBA ’18, launched in 2018
  • 1st place at the 2018 Social NVC ($45,000)
  • Headquartered in Arkansas
  • Twitter: @AIMClinics, Facebook: @aimclinics


AMOpportunities connects international students and trainees to over 300 educational programs hosted by U.S. institutions, hospitals, clinics, and physicians. This marketplace platform between international medical trainees and U.S. clinical rotations is built by and for students. AMOpportunities won first place and $100,000 in the New Venture Challenge, including $20,000 for their acceptance into the Pritzker Group Venture Fellows Program this summer, $25,000 from OCA Ventures, $25,000 from The Caruso Family Foundation, and $30,000 from the Polsky Center. 



  • Founded by Charles Borom, Benjamin Bradley, Ryan Flores, Kyle Swinsky, and Malek Yala in 2013
  • 1st place at the 2017 NVC ($100,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Twitter: @AMOpportunities, Facebook: @amopportunities, Instagram: @amopportunities


Jump in, we’re going to Belgium. Appiness is a video commerce company that allows time-stamped products and brands in local and international videos to be made shoppable via any smart device. A product of the Global New Venture Challenge, the Appiness team and founder Jonas De Cooman, MBA ’16, wowed judges at the 2016 finals and took home $7,500. Their app, Spott enables users to find out where to buy items they see on screen during advertisements and certain television programs. Using metadata linked to what is happening on the screen, the app is able to identify the price of items users can see and links to the website where they can be bought. Give @appiness_inc a follow and start deciding what you want to add to your online order queue while you’re at it.



  • Founded by Jonas De Cooman, MBA ’16
  • 1st place at the 2016 GNVC (awarded $7,500)
  • Headquartered in Belgium (London Executive MBA program )
  • @appiness_inc

Ascent Technologies

Ascent is a software-as-a-service company that helps financial service firms track and comply with relevant regulations. The Ascent platform makes it easy for compliance officers in regulated industries to see exactly what is expected of their companies, then track and report on the steps they’re taking to stay compliant. The company was a finalist at the 2015 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge and was founded by Brian Clark, MBA ’17, and  Aaron Droba, MBA ’16, while they were students at Chicago Booth. NVC team members included Shreyas Gosalia, Deepak Jayanti, and Faraj Khasib. Follow @AscentRegTech to stay up-to-date on all things fintech, finance, and machine learning.


  • Founded by Brian Clark, MBA ’17 and  Aaron Droba, MBA ’16
  • 2015 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) Finalist ($10,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Chicago Startup Investment Program Recipient (2018)
  • @AscentRegTech


BallotReady is an online voter guide that provides tailored, easy-to-digest information on the candidate and referendums listed on local ballots. The BallotReady app is designed to raise the number of informed voters and increase voter turnout. Sharing a vision to create a more informed electorate and strengthen democracy by helping voters vote informed, all the way down a ballot, founders Alex Niemczeweki, AB ’09, Aviva Rosman, and Sebastian Ellefson, AB ’03, joined forces in 2014. Less than a year later, BallotReady won the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) taking home $30,000. Today, BallotReady aggregates information from candidates’ websites, social media, press, endorsers, and board of elections data for the latest, most accurate details about the candidates and referendums on ballots. Follow @BallotReady before checking any boxes during the next election.



  • Founded by Sebastian Ellefson, AB’03 , Alex Niemczewski, AB ’09, and Aviva Rosman
  • 1st place at the 2015 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) ($30,000)
  • George Shultz Innovation Fund invested company (Spring 2016)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • @BallotReady


BenchPrep is helping millions of people all around the world learn better and faster by leveraging the power of technology, data, and innovative instructional design models. Ashish Rangnekar and Ujjwal Gupta noticed a need for more efficient on-the-go way to learn while Ashish was studying for the GMAT, struggling to carry around his test prep books to utilize any available free time during his full time job. After the success of their GMAT prep mobile app, the first ever iPhone test prep app, BenchPrep came to life as customized learning experience for students of all fields.



  • Founded by Ashish Rangnekar and Ujjwal Gupta in 2009
  • 1st place at the 2010 NVC ($30,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Raised a total of $28.2 M in funding over 3 rounds
  • Twitter: @benchprep, Facebook: @benchprep


BrewBike, a Chicago Startup, operates mobile coffee carts in an effort to make cold brew more accessible to students and faculty on college campuses nationwide. A partnership between undergraduate of Northwestern and MBA student at the University of Chicago resulted in BrewBike’s expansion and introduction into venture competitions at both schools. BrewBike was awarded $20,000 at Northwestern’s VentureCat and $45,000 at Chicago’s New Venture Challenge.


  • Founded by Lucas Philips and Randy Paris in 2015
  • Tied 4th place at the 2018 NVC ($45,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Raised $10,000 in funding on Indiegogo and $20,000 from Northwestern’s VentureCat


BloomNation is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and send unique bouquets handcrafted by local florists across the country. Founded by David Daneshgar, MBA ’12, Farbod Shoraka, and Gregg Weisstein, this company won $10,000 in the Edward L. Kaplan’ 71, New Venture Challenge (NVC). Today, BloomNation, which has been featured in TIME Magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, and on the Today Show, among others, continues to hand deliver unique, local blooms across the country. Follow @Bloomnation as they continue to make your holidays, anniversaries, or any occasion a little more special.




  • Founded by David Daneshgar, MBA ’12, Farbod Shoraka, and Gregg Weisstein
  • 3rd place at the 2012 NVC
  • Headquartered in Los Angeles, California
  • @Bloomnation


Braintree provides payment processing options for thousands of online mobile companies including Airbnb, Uber, Fab, and LivingSocial. Braintree is now a subsidiary of PayPal, and is in 46 markets across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Founder, Bryan Johnson, MBA ’07 started the company in 2007 and placed first in the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) and taking home $25,000. Braintree was acquired by eBay PayPal in 2013. Today, Braintree has seven global locations, over 500 employees, and an infinite passion for payments. Give them a follow — and think of them the next time you send a friend money — @braintree.


  • Founded by Bryan Johnson, MBA ’07
  • 1st place at the 2007 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge
  • Acquired Venmo, which lets you pay friends for things like drinks or a cab ride using a bank transfer, debit card, or credit card, in August 2012
  • Acquired by PayPal for $800 million and joins the eBay PayPal family in September 2013


CaptainU LLC recruiting software is changing the recruiting game of college sports. Whether you’re an athlete following your dream or a college coach building towards a championship, CaptainU has the tools to take you to the next level. Founders Avi Stopper, MBA ’06, and Michael Farb, MBA ’09, started their company in 2008 to empower high school athletes and college coaches to make and build college teams. The Captain U Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) team won first place in 2008 and took home home $25,000. Today, more than one million athletes use CaptainU to promote themselves to college coaches and over 5,000 college coaches have managed their recruiting process from beginning to end using its service. Lace up your sneaks, snap on your snapback just right, and give CaptainU a follow @CaptainU.



  • Founded by Avi Stopper, MBA ’06 and Michael Farb, MBA ’09
  • 1st place at the 2008 NVC ($25,000)
  • Headquartered in San Francisco, CA
  • @CaptainU


ClostraBio is dedicated to understanding and treating food allergies and other disease of the immune system. Founded in 2016 by Cathryn R. Nagler, PhD and Jeffrey A. Hubbell, PhD, ColstraBio is making strides in the discovery and development of new therapeutics that modulate the protective ability of the microbiome. ClostraBio’s team is passionate about treating diseases linked to allergic reactions like eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis. With assistance from the Polsky Center’s Technology Commercialization and Licensing team, the company was advised on how to define and protect its intellectual property. With this knowledge and their goals in mind, the company set its sights on the 2017 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) and the George Shultz Innovation Fund. John Colson, PhD, Director of Operations, along with Chicago Booth students, William Aubin, Su Fu, and Monica Vajani were awarded $40,000 and a fourth place finish at the NVC. That same week, ClostraBio was awarded up to $200,000 by the Shultz Innovation Fund advisory committee after the team’s presentation on their work that targets food allergies. The company has been featured by CBS News, BBC News, and Time Magazine among others. Go give this company a follow @ClostraBio as they look to transform the classification of allergic reactions as we know it.


  • Founded by Cathryn R. Nagler, PhD and Jeffrey A. Hubbell, PhD
  • 4th place at the 2017 New Venture Challenge
  • Awarded up to $200,000 at the 2017 George Shultz Innovation Fund Finals
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • @ClostraBio


Cubii is a compact, connected, and affordable under-desk elliptical that integrates wirelessly with mobile devices and existing fitness trackers in order to make sitting healthier and more social. Founded by Arnav Dalmia, AB ’13, Ryota Sekine, AB ’13, and Shivani Jain, after learning that moderate amounts of exercise all day helps reduce risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer, these three College students at the University of Chicago decided to make their workday more active. Since placing 2nd at the 2013 College New Venture Challenge, Cubii has since been featured by Fox News, Forbes, NBC, ABC, the Huffington Post, Chicago Tribune, and more. Next time you’re bored on the elliptical, check out @MyCubii.


  • Founders by Arnav Dalmia, AB ’13, Ryota Sekine, AB ’13, and Shivani Jain
  • 2nd place at the 2013 CNVC
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • @MyCubii


Darby Smart

Darby Smart is a video community where people watch and share snappy how-to videos. Founded by Nicole Farb, MBA ’09, Darby Smart has become a resource for people to learn and be inspired every day. Today, over 6,000 videos have been created equating to 67 million monthly impressions all backed by a 25-person team. If this doesn’t make you want to pick up a paintbrush then perhaps knowing that Nicole has D-I-Y’ed with your morning friends at Good Morning America like Michael Strahan, your co-to recipe connoisseur, Rachel Ray, and even impressed actress Sarah Michelle Gellar will. Go on, you know you want to do some arts and crafts. Following @darbysmart can get you started.



  • Founded by Nicole Farb, MBA ’09
  • Headquartered in San Francisco, CA
  • @darbysmart

ExplORer Surgical

ExplORer Surgical is an interactive surgical playbook that promotes optimal teamwork in the operating room. Best practices are built into a surgeon-customized workflow for each case. Surgical activity can be tracked and adjusted as part of a learning health system. Founded by CEO Jennifer Fried, MBA ’15, and CMO Alexander Langerman, MD ’05, SM, ’15, the company launched with a goal to create safer and more efficient surgery in 2015. The company worked with the Polsky Center’s Technology Commercialization team to license their technology. That same year they were the runner-ups at the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) taking home $50,000. Today, ExplORer Surgical aligns with many health systems’ goals of improving quality of care and lowering costs. Whether you’re a patient, member of a surgical team, an administration or are just obsessed with medical television dramas, visit to see how they are changing what it’s like to be in an operating room.   


  • Founded by Jennifer Fried, MBA ’15  and CMO Alexander Langerman, MD ’05, SM, ’15,
  • 2nd place at the 2015 NVC ($50,000)
  • Polsky Incubator Alumn
  • Awarded $64,300 at the 2014 Spring George Shultz Innovation Fund Finals
  • UChicago Startup Investment Program recipient (2017)


BeeNana makes Frönen, a banana based frozen dessert innovation that is tasty, pure, and simple. Since winning the 2017 College NVC and graduating from the Polsky Accelerator, Frönen has already expanded into many grocery stores and delivery services.



  • Founded by Jessica Gartenstein and Erik Nadeau
  • 1st place at the 2017 College NVC ($20,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Facebook: @EatFronen, Instagram: @eatfronen


Grubhub is an online food ordering and delivery service dedicated to connecting hungry diners with local takeout restaurants. The company’s online and mobile ordering platforms allow diners to order directly from approximately 50,000 takeout restaurants in more than 1,100 US cities and London. CEO and cofounder, Matt Maloney, MS, ’00, MBA ’10, and his team, started the company in 2004 and now processes more than 290,000 daily orders. The Grubhub Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) team won the competition in 2006 taking home $17,500, plus an additional $7,500 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Today Grubhub has offices in Chicago, New York and London. Follow Grubhub, and order a snack while you’re at it @grubhub.


  • Cofounder and CEO Matt Maloney, MS, ’00, MBA ’10
  • Tied for first place at the 2006 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) ($17,500)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL with offices in Chicago, New York, and London
  • @grubhub

Hello Tractor

Hello Tractor rents two-wheel tractors to small farmers in Nigeria to increase crop yields and combat against income and food insecurity. Their artificial intelligence powered tractors offer stronger and more profitable machines with better decision making. Tractors can be requested through Hello Tractor’s mobile app or booking agents and are monitored throughout the rental after pairing with farmers. Hello Tractor’s service benefits farmers, tractor owners, booking agents, and dealers alike.



  • Founded by Lavandez Jones and Jehiel Oliver in 2011
  • 1st place at the 2014 Social NVC ($30,000)
  • Headquartered in Washington DC
  • Twitter: @HelloTractor, Facebook: @hellotractor, Instagram: @hellotractor


LuminAID Lab develops cost-effective, solar-rechargeable lighting products in order to make light more affordable, portable, and sustainable. Its first product, the LuminAID light, is an inflatable, lightweight, waterproof solar lantern that can be packed and shipped flat, and is ideal for use in emergency and disaster situation. Cofounders, Andrea Sreshta, MBA ’16, and Anna Stork started their company with the thought that in addition to basic human needs such as food, water, and shelter, another critical need is light. LuminAID is now lighting the way for hikers in Yosemite, backpackers in Whistler and emergency workers in Nepal. LuminAID also sparked the interest of ABC’s Shark Tank. In addition to impressing the investors on the television show, the company also wowed the judges at the 2012 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) winning first place and taking home $25,000. Today, LuminAID lights have been used in more than 70 countries and after disasters, including Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Harvey, Typhoon Haiyan, and the earthquakes in Nepal. You can buy a light, give a light, and follow @luminAIDlab to see what light bulb idea they’ll come up with next. 


  • Founded by Andrea Sreshta, MBA ’16, and Anna Stork
  • 1st place at the 2012 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) ($25,000)
  • Star and gem lanterns were prototyped at the Polsky Center Fab Lab in 2016
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • LuminAID was featured on Shark Tank and received offers from all 5 investors in 2015
  • @luminAIDlab

Mindful Urgent Care

Mindful Urgent Care aims to offer same-day, non-emergent mental health and substance abuse psychiatric services to insured and cash-paying clients. Frustrated by the countless number of mental health patients turned away from the emergency room sent home with only referrals and self treatment options, founder Tamir Aldad worked to find better care for those with addiction and mental health issues. The treatment plan consists of an initial in-person evaluation lasting approximately 20-30 minutes. Patients will then receive follow up visits via a telehealth video conferencing platform in increments of 10-15 minutes, every 3-4 weeks. By streamlining the service, Mindful Urgent Care makes accessibility a priority for patients seeking mental health care



  • Founded by Tamir Aldad
  • Tied 1st place at the 2018 Global NVC ($15,000)
  • 2nd place at the 2018 NVC ($125,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Raised a total of $275,000 in funding from several undisclosed angel investors
  • Twitter: @mindurgentcare, Facebook: @mindfulurgentcare, Instagram: @mindfulurgentcare

Oxalo Therapeutics

Oxalo Therapeutics is developing first-in-class therapeutics to treat rare renal diseases and prevent recurrent kidney stones. University of Chicago assistant professor of medicine Hatim Hassan, MD, PhD, studies kidney disease and his research led him to leverage the microbiome to create new ways to prevent kidney stones. He worked with the Polsky Center and was introduced to Yang Zheng, a Chicago Booth student who is now chief operating officer for Oxalo Therapeutics. Together, Hassan and Zheng won $250,000 from the George Shultz Innovation Fund and $25,000 from the New Venture Challenge. Oxalo is currently beginning preclinical development and in the process of raising private capital.


  • Founded by Hatim Hassan, MD, PhD and Yang Zhang
  • Finalists at the 2018 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71,  New Venture Challenge ($25,000)
  • Awarded up to $250,000 at the Fall 2017 George Shultz Innovation Fund Finals
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL


PartySlate is a digital community for party hosts, professionals, guests, and spectators who want to find resources, photos, ideas and be in the know—across the country and world. It is a digital platform and mobile app dedicated to capturing, sharing, and curating party photos. Founded by Julie Novack and Kristin McMillin in 2015, this company is driven by the idea that inspired events inspire people. Whether it’s the venue, food, photography or entertainment, this former Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) team has fine-tuned their craft. Follow @PartySlate to plan a gathering even Jay Gatsby would be proud of. 



  • Founded by Julie Novack and Kristin McMillin
  • NVC Team
  • @PartySlate


Quevos is a high-protein chip that still maintain the tastiness of potato chips we know and love without the carbs and fat. On a mission to replace other protein snacks like protein bars, the Quevos team created egg white chips that are dairy free, gluten free, with only 3 g of carbs and 120 calories per bag. These chips are available in multiple flavors



  • Founded by Nick Hamburger and Zack Schreier in 2018
  • 1st place at the 2018 College NVC ($15,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • Facebook: @eatquevos, Instagram: @eatquevos

Rise Interactive

Rise Interactive, formerly Internet Marketing Institute, is a digital marketing agency that specialized in digital media and advanced analytics. Founded in 2004 by Jon Morris, MBA ’05, with what was initially an idea to teach traditional marketers about digital has since grown into an award-winning digital marketing agency. After a second place finish at the 2008 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC), and taking home $10,000, Rise Interactive continues to help clients shift marketing investments while delivery relevant experiences for their customers. It its tenure, Rise Interactive has been recognized by Moxie, AdAge, Fortune and OMMA. Follow @RiseInteractive and see how your favorite companies like Atkins, Pandora Charms, Ulta Beauty, and more have benefited from their services.



  • Founded by Jon Morris, MBA ’05
  • 2nd place at the 2008 NVC ($10,000)
  • @RiseInteractive

Seurat Therapeutics

Seurat Therapeutics is based on years of research by Richard Kraig, MD, PhD, at the University of Chicago that targets a naturally-derived cure for migraines aimed at the root cause rather than alleviating the symptoms. Based at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Polsky Exchange, the team has a vision to give the roughly 4 million people in the US who suffer from migraine their lives back. The migraine treatment is an Insulin-like-growth factor-1 (IGF-1) nasal spray formulation that can relieve migraines within 30 minutes. Seurat Therapeutics licensed their technology through the UCGo! express license program, participated in the Polsky I-Corps program, and was awarded up to $250,000 to support their developments by the George Shultz Innovation Fund. Check out their LinkedIn to stay up-to-date on their efforts in eliminating the ever-pesky migraine.



  • Research conducted by Richard Kraig, MD, PhD
  • Founded in 2016
  • Invested by the George Shultz Innovation Fund (Fall 2016)
  • Finalists at the 2018 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL

Simple Mills

Simple Mills makes delicious almond flour baking mixes with simple, nutrient-rich ingredients. Founder, CEO, and Chicago Booth student Katlin Smith started her company in 2013 based on a desire to create simple, healthy, and delicious food. Katlin and her team won first place at the 2014 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) taking home $30,000. Today, you can find their products at Whole Foods Market, Jewel Osco, Marianos, and Target. And, trust us, you’ll want all of them in your pantry. Follow their tasty, yet healthy journey @SimpleMills.

  • Founded by Katlin Smith
  • Won 1st Place of the NVC in 2014 ($30,000)
  • Headquartered in Chicago, IL
  • @SimpleMills

Switched Source


TAINA is a start-up with a mission to help financial institutions comply with their regulatory obligations while saving costs and cutting risk of fines. TAINA software will automate certain labor-intensive compliance functions which currently require manual intervention by leveraging the power of machine learning. Through digitization and automatic validation of hundreds of millions of tax-related forms that institutions process annually, TAINA will help improve tax transparency.



  • Founded by Maria Scott in 2016
  • 1st place at the 2017 Global NVC ($15,000)
  • Headquartered in London, UK
  • @TainaTechnology


Tovala, is a smart counter-top appliance that cooks a fresh, complete meal by itself, after customers insert fresh grains, vegetables, and proteins into custom pods. CEO and founder, David Rabie, MBA ’15, started his company in hopes of creating a home-cooked meal in less time. With the mission to live and eat well, David and his team won first place at the 2015 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) bringing home $70,000, along with some great meals. Today, the Tovala team is based in Chicago and exceeded its kickstarter campaign goal of $100,000 in less than 24 hours. Today, you can buy your very own Tovala steam oven and impress all your dinner guest with some impressive meals. Follow @tovalafood and see what’s for dinner.


  • Founded in 2015 (CEO and Founder, David Rabie)
  • 1st place at the 2015 NVC ($70,000)
  • Named one of four Pritzker Group Venture Capital Fellows for the 2015 summer program
  • Kickstarter campaign exceeds $100,000 goal in less than 24 hours of launch
  • I-Corps Participant
  • Founder, David Rabie, MBA ’15, is a PF3 Fellow (2015)
  • UChicago Startup Investment Program Recipient
  • @tovalafood

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