UChicago student Daniel Yu founded Reliefwatch—formerly Project SAM—in 2012 after learning about problems with expired medications and stock outages in clinics in developing countries. In 2013, Reliefwatch won second place in the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge, a track of the University’s business launch program, the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. With this support, Yu and his team built a cloud-based system to effectively manage supply chains and give organizations the ability to track and analyze data in real-time anywhere in the world using basic mobile phones.
Over the past six months the Reliefwatch team has been methodically winning competitions and raising funds:
- In February, CEO Yu won the Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneurs Prize in London and received €50,000.
- In March, Reliefwatch was declared the winner of the Student Startup Madness National Championship Finals held at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, earning them $5,000.
- In April, the team won an additional $70,000 from the Elevate business plan competition in Silicon Valley.
- In May, the team won the health division and took home $100,000 in 1776’s Challenge Cup, a global startup competition in Washington, D.C.
While that might keep most startups busy enough, Reliefwatch has also raised more than $320,000 from angel investors and has been steadily growing and advancing their business into new markets at the same time. The UChicago Innovation Fund recognized this significant growth and progress and decided to select Reliefwatch as the first team to receive an off-cycle investment from the fund.
“We’ve now launched into four countries across two continents and have expanded our customer base beyond just health into consumer goods supply chains as well,” said Yu. “The awards we’ve won, the funding we’ve received from angel investors and this latest investment from the Innovation Fund is a huge validation of what we’re doing and how we’re going about it.”
“Reliefwatch is clearly solving an unmet need with its platform, and they’re doing it in a unique and effective way,” said John Flavin, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange and member of the Innovation Fund steering committee. “Our investment will support Reliefwatch as the startup expands further to reach more markets and serve more organizations around the world, and we are eager to see their continued growth.”
Typically, the Innovation Fund awards grants and invests in promising technologies and startups during two annual investment cycles. This off-cycle investment marks the beginning of a new strategy from the fund to allow follow-on investments in Innovation Fund portfolio companies and increase its flexibility to support UChicago startups with proven traction as they raise funding rounds.
“Our bi-annual cycle will still be the primary path for UChicago innovators and entrepreneurs to apply for and receive funding from the Innovation Fund, but this new process will give us freedom to support startups at critical funding milestones,” said Jason Pariso, director of the UChicago Innovation Fund. “Our new Senior Innovation Fund associates will help us monitor our current portfolio identify potential investment opportunities for the advisory committee to consider between cycles.”
The Spring 2015 cycle investments will be announced by the Innovation Fund on Tuesday, July 7.