The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago announced the launch of the Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC), a new track of its nationally-ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge startup accelerator program. The ANVC is a new global program dedicated to supporting all University of Chicago alumni who are in the process of launching and developing their startup ventures.
Since 1996, the Polsky Center has helped launch more than 230 startup companies still in operation today that have gone on to raise more than $915 million in funding and more than $13 billion in exits through its NVC program. Grubhub, Braintree/Venmo and Simple Mills are examples of three national brands that got their successful start through the NVC.
“We run the top university accelerator program in the country,” said Steve Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and faculty director of the Polsky Center who is responsible for creating the NVC more than 20 years ago. “We spent the past two decades perfecting a model that enables our students to take their early-stage ideas and turn them into viable businesses. Now it is time for us to bring that same success to help support our alumni around the world.”
The ANVC will be the fifth track of the NVC program. Other existing tracks include the traditional NVC—the original track—which is open to all current UChicago graduate students; the Social NVC, which the Polsky Center runs in partnership with the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at Chicago Booth and is open to all current UChicago graduate students working on either for-profit or not-for-profit enterprises with a social impact mission; the Global NVC, which is designed for current Booth Executive MBA students in Chicago, Hong Kong and London; and the College NVC, which is open to all current UChicago undergraduate students.
“We often see our students graduate from the University and jump right into great careers in consulting, public policy or a variety of other industries. These alumni then use this experience to start their own companies 5-10 years out,” said Starr Marcello, AM’04, MBA’17, executive director of the Polsky Center and adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship at Booth who teaches the College NVC class. “The Alumni NVC will give these alumni access to critical resources that can help them determine the viability of their new venture ideas. We expect the Alumni NVC to help launch a new cohort of real, scalable businesses.”
In this inaugural year, the Polsky Center will launch and operate the ANVC track in five key regions: East Coast, Midwest, West Coast, Europe and Asia. University alumni have been recruited by the Polsky Center to volunteer their time and serve as dedicated co-chairs to oversee all local programming in each region.
The East Coast programming will operate out of New York City, Midwest programing will operate out of Chicago, West Coast programming will operate out of the San Francisco Bay Area, the Europe programming will operate out of London and the Asia programming will operate out of Bangalore, India. Future iterations of the ANVC will likely include additional regions outside of these initial five.
Supported by alumni
The ability to have strong alumni leadership in each region is critical to the ANVC’s global model. Thus, the Polsky Center handpicked several alumni who have first-hand experience participating in the NVC as well as those with strong ties to the venture and startup community.
“The NVC was instrumental in getting my first company off the ground and supporting me to become a successful entrepreneur,” said Michael Farb, MBA ’09, cofounder of CaptainU, an online platform that connects high school athletes with college coaches, which won first place in the NVC in 2008 and was acquired by Blue Star Sports in 2016. Farb will serve as one of the co-chairs in the West Coast region.
Coco Meers, MBA’14, cofounder of the online beauty booking platform PrettyQuick that was acquired by Groupon in 2015, is one of the alums spearheading the ANVC in the Midwest region. She immediately recognized the value that a new track of the NVC could bring. “PrettyQuick's trajectory was vastly improved by the NVC experience,” described Meers. “Why limit that transformation to current students? We have such a rich ecosystem for innovation all across the University, which is captured in our alumni community at large. I'm excited to bring the resources of the NVC to other alumni founders.”