The Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is pleased to announce the winners of the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC), the social impact track of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s nationally ranked Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC).
Winners of the eighth annual SNVC, which launches enterprises with a social impact mission and a plan for financial sustainability, received $75,000 in venture funding and $30,000 in additional specialized awards. The winners are:
First Place ($45,000): AIM Clinics provides the gold standard autism therapy to children in rural US communities. With a pilot already up and running in Arkansas, AIM Clinics seeks to purposefully focus on markets where the shortage of therapy is the most severe and the autism care ecosystem is least developed and deliver high-quality, evidence-based ABA therapy to children in those communities. Team members: George Boghos and Frankie Schiller (School Affiliation: Booth, SSA)
Tied for Second Place ($15,000 each):
Shakti, which means strength in several Indian languages, is a mobile based intervention that empowers functionally illiterate women in India to enforce their rights and access legal and public health resources. Team members: Meghana Chandra and Mariana Botero (Booth, Harris)
VouchCircle is a professional networking platform to help people in underserved communities stay connected, share jobs with one another, and vouch for one another to get hired. Team members: Wenting Xi, Sukrutha Sujai, Valentina Diaz, and Zach Taylor (Booth)
Other finalists: Gather Activism, Insights for Impact, Mighty, and Unbreakable
This year, two SNVC teams also received specialized awards. AIM Clinics earned the $20,000 Early Childhood Award, a prize supported by the Renee Adelson Early Childhood Innovation Fund, established by Scott Adelson, ’87. The second award went to Shakti, which took home the $10,000 Tata Centre for Development Social Impact Award for India, instituted by Tata Trusts, to pursue a venture that addresses a socially relevant issue in India and advances it in India. The award can fund travel to/from India or expenses to pilot in India. This award is instituted by Tata Trusts and implemented by the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago (TCD).
SNVC finalists also will share in over $200,000 of in-kind services, including office space, legal services, and professional consulting.
"Many of this year’s SNVC teams are already operating in the US or abroad, which allowed judges to evaluate not just the teams’ ideas, but also validation from their beneficiaries and customers,” said Robert H. Gertner, Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance at Chicago Booth and John Edwardson Faculty Director of the Rustandy Center. “We are so proud of all the teams who presented and look forward to seeing what they do next.”
More than 70 judges—including experienced social and traditional entrepreneurs, impact investors, nonprofit leaders, and many Chicago Booth alumni—provided feedback throughout the SNVC program. Judges included Susan Crown, founder and chairman of the Susan Crown Exchange (SCE), William W. Towns, executive director of Benefit Chicago, and Tasha Seitz, partner with Impact Engine. A full list can be found on the SNVC website.
The SNVC is run by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, in partnership with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
The SNVC is the cornerstone of the Rustandy Center’s Edwardson Social Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Chicago, which is an initiative named in recognition of a 2016 gift by John Edwardson,’72. Edwardson is retired chairman and CEO of CDW, a leading provider of technology solutions, and cochairman of Advance Illinois, an independent statewide education organization.
“Each year, I’m more impressed with the commitment and enthusiasm UChicago students have for making a meaningful impact on social issues,” Edwardson said. “As the SNVC has expanded its reach at Booth and across the university, the social entrepreneurs who participate have developed even stronger business models and pitches. I’m proud to support their work.”