Booth Team Wins Honorable Mention at Aspen’s 2019 Business & Society International MBA Competition

A team of Chicago Booth students earned an honorable mention for participating in the Aspen Institute’s 2019 Business & Society International MBA Competition on Friday, April 26.  

The Booth team was comprised of first-year students Shaliya Dehipawala, Tamara Pashinova, and Robert Lamell.

The Chicago Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago was one of 25 schools participating in the Aspen case competition, which focused this year on finding innovative solutions to social, ethical, and environmental problems facing businesses Connecticut Green Bank (CGB) and Inclusive Prosperity Capital (IPC).  

Booth’s Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation facilitated the competition at Booth, helping to select one team to advance to the next stage. The top five teams worldwide were flown to New York City to present in front of corporate, academic, and other friends of the Aspen Institute to compete for a share of over $35,000 in scholarship funds.  

The Aspen Institute awarded the Booth team an honorable mention. View the competition results here.  

Even though they didn’t win, Dehipawala said his teammates learned a lot by researching the market for “green bonds,” particularly which types of investors are interested in them, who supplies them, and how they are priced compared to standard bonds.  

He said his team, whose members met last fall during Booth professor Kevin Murphy’s advanced microeconomic analysis class, enjoyed the hands-on experience of working together to tackle a complex problem.  

“After understanding the problem, we segmented the analysis, presented tentative solutions to each other, agreed on our answer, and created the final product,” he said. “Tamara, Robert, and I come from diverse personal and professional backgrounds, creating an excellent dynamic for group problem-solving.”  

Caroline Grossman, ‘03, the Rustandy Center’s director of programs and adjunct professor of strategy at Booth, said the Aspen case competition is one of many Booth offerings that can help MBA students think about how to pursue meaningful careers in the sector. For more information on other social impact case competitions, visit the Rustandy Center website.


Gumdrop Massage Pushes its Boundaries with NVC

By Aanika Patel, Class of 2020

Arjun Vellayappan (Booth ’20) is co-founder of Gumdrop, a lifestyle/wellness company with a myofascial massage tool that aims to help anyone manage muscular pain and stress on the go. The device is a tetrahedron with each point having a different sized radius to target various muscle groups. Arjun, however, isn’t an engineer or physical therapist and instead focuses on the financial operations of the business. The product design and inception can be traced to Phoebe Evans, Arjun’s co-founder and friend from undergrad at Northwestern. The two met through mutual friends in 2012 and stayed close even after graduating college.

Gumdrop is a myofascial tool that aim to manage muscular pain and stress on the go

Gumdrop is a myofascial tool that aim to manage muscular pain and stress on the go


Phoebe began developing the Gumdrop device as an Engineering and Design Innovation Project through her master’s thesis and received positive feedback from her advisors to commercialize the product. She was passionate about her project but wasn’t sure how to transition her product into a business. Arjun helped change that. On a trip to Thailand in 2017 with friends they decided to partner together and Gumdrop, the company, was formed. “I’ve always been interested in starting a business and understanding what it takes to make it successful. I hit a rut in consulting and wanted to put myself to the test in the entrepreneurship space,” Arjun described.

When they returned, Arjun and Phoebe hit the ground running. “We came in with low expectations and just cared about learning and hopefully breaking even,” Arjun says. They spent 2017 focused on the legal setup of their company, testing products, and materials, and beginning to build a small inventory for initial sales. They sold ~50 devices in 2017 and primarily focused on getting feedback on how to best improve the product and business.

Last year, they shifted towards scaling the business and finding a manufacturer for the product. Arjun and Phoebe ultimately settled on a small polyurethane manufacturer in Kalamazoo, MI that also provided product support and recommended switching to a more affordable material that would help drive down costs. With legal setup and manufacturing prepared, Gumdrop launched their first Kickstarter. The initial goal of the Kickstarter was $10,000 – the team hit that amount within a week and completed their Kickstarter with $15,000 in sales.  

With the success of the Kickstarter, Arjun reached out to his Entrepreneurial Discovery professor Mike Tebbe for guidance on whether Gumdrop would be a viable option for New Venture Challenge (“NVC”). Professor Tebbe provided guidance and encouraged Arjun to enter the challenge and assuaged Arjun’s uncertainties about whether Gumdrop could benefit from NVC despite not being a technology-focused business. “Our plan is to use NVC to learn how to scale the business and to build a brand beyond one product,” Arjun indicated. With the addition of Saumit Sahi (Booth ’20), who was looking to translate the classroom knowledge from Professor Sanjay Dhar’s marketing strategy class to the real world, Arjun and the Gumdrop team are building out and flexing their current business strategy.

Arjun is especially excited about the advisory team with NVC. “We have some amazing advisors with female founders such as Andrea Sreshta from LuminAID and Erin Conroy from Phytchick,” says Arjun. The NVC alumni community have been instrumental in helping to expand Arjun and Phoebe’s vision for the company with Arjun citing the NVC community and advisor feedback from professors like Waverly Deutsch as highlights of the experience.

Gumdrop devices can be purchased for $26 plus shipping and handling from Gumdropmassage.com


Tensions Rise in Conflict Between India and Pakistan

It is often said that there are two things that unite a country as diverse as India quickly and wholly – cricket and Pakistan. The cricket world cup starts in May, but the unification decided it couldn’t wait that long. A recent attack on Indian paramilitary forces by Pakistani militants that left 40 dead was one of the deadliest in decades and triggered swift, retaliatory measures from both countries.

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Nate Silver’s successful prognostications in 2008 and 2012, and his better-than-most performance in 2016 led to this question from the audience. But what is the secret of his success, and what can we learn from him?

Seedcon 2019 Features Venture Capitalists, Entrepreneurs and Boothies discussing the Future of Everything

Booth’s flagship entrepreneurship and venture focused event Seedcon, co-hosted by Polsky and the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Group at Booth inspired 200+ attendees with keynote speakers Eric Feng (General Partner KPCB, Founding CTO Flipboard & Hulu), Antonio Gracias (Founder, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, Valor Equity), and panels on blockchain, future of transport, AR and VR.