The New Venture Challenge (NVC) began innocuously enough, with a student approaching Professor Steve Kaplan several years back about starting a business plan competition at Booth. Kaplan agreed, launching the program that is currently in its 22nd year. With the NVC Finals around the corner and teams gearing up for their second round of in-class pitches, we at ChiBus thought we would catch you up on what’s going on with the competition and teams currently.
What is NVC?
For the uninitiated, Booth’s NVC is a start-up accelerator that was introduced in 1996 – predating even the Polsky Center – with Edward Kaplan providing the initial funding. NVC boasts a staggering 185 companies still in business, including Grubhub, the accelerator’s 2006 winner and best-known alumni. The program spans three phases: start-ups apply to the competition in Phase 1 and the classroom portion takes place in the spring quarter in Phase 2, where shortlisted teams receive ongoing coaching and mentorship and pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. Finalists, selected based on these pitches, present their start-ups at the NVC Finals, in Phase 3 of the program. In true Booth pay-it-forward style, the judges and coaches often include NVC alumni, either still with their businesses or with VCs.
Finalists stand to receive a total of roughly $400,000 in SAFEs (simple agreement for future equity), distributed amongst all teams, in addition to in-kind services such as office space and legal services. A new addition to this year’s NVC is a Minimum Viable Product Fund that entrepreneurs can apply to in order to help get their businesses off the ground.
Who are the teams?
31 teams are currently participating in Phase 2 of NVC and vying for a spot in the finals. These start-ups range from idea stage companies to more mature businesses and are tackling a diverse range of challenges across multiple sectors. NVC often sees a large number of companies focusing on a particular sector; a few years back this was fintech, and this year it is healthcare. Roughly a third of the teams are focusing on the healthcare and biotechnology space, with innovative product and service offerings that include a wearable device to monitor fetal heart rate, solutions to reduce hospital readmission rates, and medication to prevent migraines. Interestingly, there are also a large number of start-ups focusing on food and beverage, with three teams offering healthy dessert products! Technology is another commonly represented sector; teams are building technology products to streamline payments, improve employee engagement, and develop online marketplaces. While most of the start-ups are US-centric, a few are focusing on Latin America.
According to Hannah Mannino, an Associate Director with the Polsky Center responsible for leading and administering the NVC, there are a few common factors that contribute to the success of these start-ups, both during NVC and afterwards. “What I have seen with some of the start-ups that do well is that they really take advantage of NVC’s resources, whether it’s making the most of regular meetings with the faculty and coaches, or tapping into other resources Polsky has to offer,” she said. Some of these additional resources include programs like the I-Corps program, which helps guide technologies in STEM fields through the customer discovery process and explore commercialization opportunities; the Polsky Accelerator program, which enables start-ups to build out their businesses both pre- and post-NVC; and the Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship (PF3), which provides financial support to graduating MBA entrepreneurs as they transition into working on their ventures full time.
Approximately ten teams will be selected as finalists, to be announced a week before the finals. The finals will take place on May 30.
Many thanks to Hannah Mannino for her input while writing this article.