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U Chicago Polsky Center New Venture Challenge awards record $1 million to student startups 

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation has announced winners of the 24th annual Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, which awarded a record $1 million to 11 student-run startups.

This year’s program marks the largest investment pool in NVC history, topping last year’s investment of $850,000. The top prize was awarded to Pippin Title, a one-stop-shop for land title reports that eliminates operational hassles for title insurance agents. The startup secured $450,000 in total funding, including $150,000 from the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize.

Other winners include startups that focus on real-time sports experiences, fertility treatments, and funeral arrangements.

“We are so proud of you for having worked through very tough circumstances and still creating real businesses,” said Prof. Steve Kaplan, the Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director at the Polsky Center, during the first-ever virtual finals on June 4. The Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, Kaplan is one of three faculty members who co-teach the New Venture Challenge course.

“It’s the talent and skill of our students that have allowed this to be an amazing program… It’s the whole reason we do what we do,” added Mark Tebbe, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Polsky Center.

This year’s competition also included a “Moonshot Prize” to highlight unique technologies that are catalyzing innovative solutions to global challenges. The funding was split between ETALYC, a cloud-based intelligent traffic management software solution, and Tharzen, a universal front-end visual editor.

“I want to thank the students, you were such a terrific group,” said Ellen Rudnick, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship and senior advisor for the Polsky Center, “and despite all the challenges we faced… the teams made amazing progress this quarter and exceeded our expectations. It will be exciting to follow their progress-post NVC.”

The winners are:

  • First Place ($450,000): Pippin Title set a record after securing $450,000 in total funding, which includes $150,000 from the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize, as well as additional funding on behalf of the judges and $50,000 from OCA Ventures. (Team members: Bharat Das, Emily Doubilet, Lucy Hu, Omar Naseef, Slava Nor, Bassel Said, Dominic Vallosio)
  • Second Place ($280,000): Lighten helps make various arrangements after the death of a loved one. (Team members: Geesoo (Brian) Kim, Alexandra Koys, Teresa Lai, Amita Prabhu, Sarah Showak, Jiali (Carly) Zhao)
  • Third Place ($130,000): ETALYC, a cloud-based intelligent traffic management software solution, also received the Moonshot Prize and an investment from OCA Ventures. (Team members: Chris Cebula, Vishal Mahulkar, Anuj Sharma, Richard Yan)
  • Fourth Place: ($50,000): Ollipsis Fertility provides egg freezing for free and generates revenue by making half of the retrieved eggs available for IVF patients in need of donor eggs. (Team members: Albert Castelltort Mikkelsen, Paula Ghisalberti Feito, Howard Lakougna, Anne Tong, Jim Van Horne, Mary Wang)
  • Fifth Place (Tie) ($20,000): Ruby provides real-time interactive experiences for sports fans. (Team members: Ini Archibong, Ryan Black, Julian Davidson, Morgan Franklin, Wyatt McCallum, Simon Sorich, Omar Taveras)
  • Fifth Place (Tie) ($20,000): Tharzen, a universal front-end visual editor, also received funds from the Moonshot Prize. (Team members: Michael Abraham, Aseem Bhardwaj, Faina Dookh, Andrew Liu, Mikael Mayer, Philipp Spitta)

The five remaining teams from this year’s cohort—Crave Natural, LUKH, Modern Reliance, Neesh, and SvaDish—received $10,000 as NVC finalists.

Pippin Title co-founder and CEO Bharat Das called the NVC a “transformative experience” for the team. “It allowed us to hone our sales and marketing plan and sets us up for our next phase of growth,” Das said. “Of course, winning first place and getting an investment from the university is also amazing.”

The next step for the company is to launch the product more widely to enterprise customers.

“We will be finalizing the product over the next few months, and then begin a wider rollout,” Das explained. “We believe the market has a great need to our product, especially as COVID-related restrictions ease and the real estate market picks up.”


Source: New Venture Challenge awards record $1 million to student startups | University of Chicago News

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