Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge ranks among top accelerator programs in country

The premier startup program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge, was recently named a top accelerator program in the United States.

The NVC, which is run by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Chicago Booth, ranked fourth in research released by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Program. Independent accelerator programs Angelpad, MuckerLab and Techstars landed in the top three. Stanford University’s StartX, which ranked sixth, was the only other university accelerator program listed in the top 10.


“This ranking puts a spotlight on university accelerator programs,” said Steve Kaplan, faculty director of the Polsky Center and the Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Booth. “For the past 19 years, our NVC program has pioneered many of the same elements found in most accelerator programs today.”

This was the first year in which university accelerators were included in the annual research conducted by the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Accelerators are defined as a fixed-term, cohort-based program that includes mentorship, educational components and culminates in a public pitch event or demo day. Both independent and university accelerators meeting this definition were asked to submit information on companies that participated in their accelerator program between 2005 and 2014.

“We always knew university accelerator programs provided great educational opportunities for entrepreneurs,” said Yael Hochberg, managing director of the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, and the Ralph S. O’Connor Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Rice University Jones Graduate School of Business. “By including universities in our research, our goal is to offer insights for the community and measure the impact and success these university programs provide.”

Notable NVC participants included in the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project research were Braintree, which was acquired by PayPal in 2013 for $800 million; GrubHub, which completed an IPO in April 2014 and whose market cap exceeds $3.8 billion; Bump Technologies, which was acquired by Google in 2013; and Simple Mills, which raised a seed round from Hyde Park Angels in July 2014.

“We are very proud of the work that goes into supporting our student entrepreneurs,” said Ellen Rudnick, MBA’73, executive director of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “In May 2016, we will mark a milestone as we celebrate 20 years of our NVC program.”