Startups promoting a “cricket-based superfood powder” and “manufacturing solution for laser chip marketing” were among the innovative teams competing during the June 6 finals of the Polsky Center’s nationally recognized Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge.
For the first time in the program’s 23-year history, 12 teams presented their business plans for a chance at $850,000—the largest total cash prize pool awarded at the NVC. Thanks to a gift from Chicago Booth alumnus Rattan L. Khosa, the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize guaranteed the winner would be taking home at least $150,000.
My Art Cache, a private online matching platform for art industry professionals, dealers and buyers to enable fine art dealers to capture lost sales and liquidate “hidden” inventory, won the Rattan L. Khosa First-Place Prize and $365,000, which included $150,000 from Khosa as well as $215,000 from eight additional investors. This year’s first place prize is the largest of any business school competition.
The top-ranked accelerator program opened up more spots in this year’s finals because of the caliber of teams participating in the program in recent years.
“It’s gotten too hard to choose, and that means that teams who didn’t get into the finals may do very well,” said Steven N. Kaplan, Chicago Booth’s Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and the Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director for the Polsky Center.
Other winners of the 2019 NVC include:
- GGLeagues, an eSports league that promotes community among gamers through structured competitive recreational leagues and live in-person gaming events, finished in second place and took home $220,000, including $45,000 from the Polsky Center and $175,000 from seven additional investors. The leagues allow gamers to play eSports in person with other gamers in their community, similar to city-wide recreational sports leagues.
- Aegis AI, an AI software that automatically identifies guns and public safety threats in security camera feeds to notify security and law enforcement, took home third place and $155,000, including $45,000 from the Polsky Center and $110,000 from individual investors. The company’s system detects guns, intruders and abandoned objects in real-time, turning any security camera system into a threat-detecting smart camera system without requiring additional hardware.
- Five to Nine, a platform that increases workplace connectivity and inclusion while leveraging analytics to enhance the employee experience, was awarded $30,000 from the Polsky Center.
Eight finalists each took home $10,000 from the Polsky Center:
- Africana Airlines: working to make travel convenient and affordable in Africa
- Airspace: upgrading the private office experience with services, amenities and technology
- Apollo Foods: a Mexican snack company creating healthy snacks using local superfoods
- Beltech: developing safer, long-lasting and cheaper lithium-ion batteries for electronics and electric vehicles consumer
- Digital Adventures: teaching kids through a tech-powered, project-based approach to develop coding and engineering skills
- Iris Light Technologies: delivering innovative manufacturing solutions to the light chip market
- Kambista: a digital platform that exchanges the Peruvian Sol and U.S. dollar
- Veda Grace: imaging technology to curate custom cosmetic prescription products
The NVC finals is one of the marquee events of UChicago Innovation Fest. Now in its fourth year, Innovation Fest celebrates pioneering discovery and entrepreneurial endeavors at the University of Chicago. Led by the Polsky Center, the month of events, workshops and accelerator programs highlights the breadth and impact of innovation at UChicago in the areas of entrepreneurship and research commercialization, scientific advancements, and social and global impact.