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he Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago is expanding the undergraduate track of the nationally ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge startup accelerator program by partnering with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The College New Venture Challenge will now serve the startup track of the University of Illinois’ City Scholars program, giving students from the Grainger College of Engineering a chance to to live and study in Chicago for a semester while working on a student-led venture. The CNVC will continue serving College students at UChicago, fostering collaboration between undergrads from both campuses.
“Through this new expansion of the CNVC, students from both institutions have the chance to partner in order to take an idea to market,” said Starr Marcello, deputy head and executive director of the Polsky Center and adjunct associate professor of entrepreneurship at Chicago Booth. “We are eager to showcase how this unique model of collaboration and sharing of resources will not only benefit our students, but also to put a spotlight on entrepreneurship talent that lives across the state of Illinois.”
Students in the City Scholars program will continue to take a full course load of University of Illinois classes through a combination of classes offered in Chicago and online, including the College New Venture Challenge course, which is offered to undergraduates at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. This course is the cornerstone of the Startup City Scholars program, and will be offered as a blended section made up of students from the two schools.
“The City Scholars program has been a great success in its first two years, and we are very pleased that the Polsky Center is expanding the College New Venture Challenge to partner with the program,” said Jonathan Makela, associate dean of undergraduate programs for the Grainger College of Engineering and professor of electrical and computer engineering at UIUC. “Teaming with the University of Chicago and its students is a terrific way to help them solve some of the world’s most challenging problems and creating transformative businesses.”
The College New Venture Challenge, which began in 2012, has helped UChicago undergrads turn their ideas into viable businesses such as Cubii, Fronen, Moneythink and Quevos. Since 1996, the Polsky Center has helped launch more than 330 startup companies still in operation today that have gone on to raise more than $1 billion in funding and more than $9.5 billion in exits through its NVC program.
The 2019-2020 cohort will kick off in January with 21 teams—15 from UChicago and six from the University of Illinois—enrolling in the classroom portion of the program. The teams’ ideas include a sneaker rental company, an online legal education platform, a variety of application technologies and an eco-friendly packaged low sugar alcoholic drink.
The class will culminate on March 11, 2020 at the CNVC Finals, in which finalists will present their business plans to a panel of judges comprised of investors, entrepreneurs and industry experts. Prizes, which include $100,000 in investment and in-kind services, have helped past CNVC finalists grow into successful businesses.