Oct. 21, 1999
Vol. 19 No. 3

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    New Venture Challenge begins

    Each year, the University’s Graduate School of Business offers a chance for University students to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into realities through one of the country’s most prestigious business-plan competitions.

    The Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge, which is designed to encourage students from different disciplines to work together on their business plans, is now underway. All University students are eligible to participate on a team; however, each team must have at least one business school student to qualify.

    “There are amazing opportunities today for new business models to thrive,” said Steven Kaplan, the Neubauer Family Professor in Entrepreneurship and Finance and faculty sponsor of the competition. “The New Venture Challenge is an excellent vehicle for all Chicago students to turn a white-hot spotlight on their business ideas and see if they can bring these ideas to life. It is a rare opportunity for students to get the best of real-world advice.”

    Teams that advance to the second phase of the competition benefit from extensive interaction with highly esteemed venture capitalists and entrepreneurs as well as the expertise of Kaplan and outside volunteer consultants.

    Last year’s judging pool included Gerald “Jerry” Gallagher, general partner at Oak Investment Partners; Joe Mansueto, founder and chairman of Morningstar Inc.; Peter May, president and chief operating officer of Triarc Companies; Robert “Mac” McCormack, partner at Trident Capital; and Joe Neubauer, chairman and chief executive officer of ARAMARK Corporation.

    An assembly of venture capitalists, angel investors and entrepreneurial business leaders provide feedback during student presentations and judge the competition. Last year, 51 teams entered the competition in November, and eight teams advanced to the final competition phase on May 28. Each of the eight teams had 35 minutes to present its business proposal and answer questions from the judges. The format simulated the real experiences of entrepreneurs vying for funding from venture capitalists. Afterward, several of the judges, themselves venture capitalists, commented that the students’ business plans were better than several they had seen cross their desks.

    “What is the No. 1 priority for new ventures? Financing. To secure financing requires developing a good business plan, knowing how to sell it and having the right management team and network to make it happen,” said Ellen Rudnick, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at the GSB. “This is exactly the experience we give to students during the New Venture Challenge.”

    One participant in last year’s competition likened the proposal presentations to a lesson in humility, as egos are eviscerated. The presentations also offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get into the mind of a venture capitalist and get their insights on how to make business ideas better, the student said.

    Teams with the best ideas that show significant promise and business potential will receive cash prizes totaling $45,000. One of last year’s winning teams––NanoMedical––was a collaborative effort involving students from the business school and the Physical and Biological Sciences divisions. The team received $15,000 to put its winning plan to work.

    More information on last year’s winners, as well as rules and entry forms for the 1999-2000 competition deadline, may be viewed at the New Venture Challenge Web site at: http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/student/nvc/. More information also may be obtained by contacting Susan Tai at the Entrepreneurship Program, (773) 834-2838 or susan.tai@gsb.uchicago.edu.