Stories about UCIE

On Friday, February 13, student teams from across the City came together at the University of Chicago’s newly opened Chicago Innovation Exchange in Hyde Park, for an afternoon of networking and competition at the first annual Phoenix Pitch. Designed as an intercollegiate event, Phoenix Pitch provides a novel opportunity for college students interested in entrepreneurship to build new connections and get valuable feedback on their business ideas.

The Chicago Innovation Exchange played host to over 80 participants from local universities including the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University and University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to the event, teams were asked to submit one-line idea descriptions and 30 second video pitches for the 1st and 2nd Rounds of selection.

Ten finalists were selected through participant voting during the event and had the chance to pitch in front a fantastic panel of judges who donated 2 hours of their time to provide advice to student teams. Judges included Rick Zullo, Vice President at Lightbank; Alida Miranda-Wolff, Associate Manager at Hyde Park Angels; Imran Ahmad, Principal at OCA Ventures; Shradha Agarwal, President and Co-Founder of Context Media; Shreena Amin, Co-Founder and COO at Pretty Quick; and Robert Rosenberg, Adjunct Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Booth School of Business.  Team mentors included Stelios Constantinides and Kathleen Qiu from Reliefwatch, Vilius Zaikauskas from Enova, Hunter Riley and Aaron Langford from Schlep.it, Michael Gaiss from ThinkB1G, Chris Stavitsky from Vintage Campus, Nate Williams from Flex.io, and Jason Rowley.

A team led by UChicago physics graduate student, Ge Yang took the top prize with Escherpad  a collaborative note-taking application. Prepify, a test prep startup offering adaptive SAT study materials, led by second-year College student Connor Soltas took second place and Trash-to-Tomato, led by IIT student Prasanna Deshpande, took third place with a pitch to help restaurants turn their waste into organic tomatoes.

Judge Miranda-Wolff commented, “Intercollegiate programs like Phoenix Pitch are key to building relationships across the Chicago entrepreneurial community. We build better products and teams when we collaborate, and until recently, universities served as their own entrepreneurship islands. This was a great step in bringing the community together and I have no doubt the next Phoenix Pitch will be bigger, better, and brighter.”

The event was made possible thanks to the remarkable support from a number of partner organizations and generous sponsors including Mastercard, Enova and Flex.io. Special thanks goes out to University of Chicago Careers in Entrepreneurship, Chicago Innovation Exchange, Edge, IIT MAD, Microsoft Student Partners, and Google.

The Phoenix Pitch committee was made up of University of Chicago students Shaan Sapra, Shao-Yi Qian, Jawwad Zakaria, Grace Lu, and Cooper Zajac.  Qian commented, “The entire team was thrilled by the turnout and to see our efforts come to fruition. Our goal has always been to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among Chicago college students; it is so important to provide students with the opportunities to cultivate their passions and connect them with the resources that will become key to their future success, whether its peers or mentors.” 

The intent of Phoenix Pitch is to become an annual event for the college students of Chicago. Continuing on the success of the first annual Phoenix Pitch, the team is already planning for the next Phoenix Pitch to hopefully bring even more students together to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship.

For more information about judges and mentors, visit www.phoenixpitch.com/pitch

For complete event details, visit www.phoenixpitch.com

For all pictures of the event, visit http://bit.ly/17VMeHn

For any questions, email phoenixpitch@gmail.com or call (626) 476-3427

You might say that Greg Nance, AB’11, has entrepreneurship in his blood.

As he listened to his parents, two entrepreneurial public servants in Seattle, discuss their work over the dinner table, Nance became convinced that a little determination could go a long way toward making a positive difference in the world. Nance refined these ideas as a debate team member in high school, where he developed a knack for identifying unmet needs and articulating possible solutions.

But Nance faced the same question that everyone seeking to change the world must confront: how can you translate ideas into action?

Nance’s time at the University of Chicago allowed him to do precisely that. UChicago gave him the platform he needed to experiment with his ideas and team up with like-minded peers. “At UChicago there is an emphasis on asking sharp questions and then developing meaningful frameworks with smart peers,” he says. “My UChicago education has been instrumental to my career by helping me to identify promising opportunities and then building top-notch teams with former classmates.”

Initially, Nance was determined to launch a hedge fund out of his dorm room. He immediately took advantage of opportunities on campus to gain exposure to investing. “To build my experience I joined The Blue Chips campus investment club and completed an ABG Externship at Morgan Stanley in Los Angeles,” he said. “After an internship at Merrill Lynch during the summer of 2008, I decided that the hedge fund route wasn't right for me, so I used my experience and contacts to pursue my passion for urban education leadership.”

Thus began Nance’s entrepreneurship when, as a second year, he dreamed up and co-founded Moneythink, a nonprofit that trains volunteers to teach financial management skills to low-income teens. The program spread throughout U.S. campuses and its volunteers have mentored over 7,000 students to date.

Using the success of Moneythink, Nance identified an opportunity to apply his mentorship ideas on an international scale. In 2012, he co-founded ChaseFuture, an organization based in Shanghai designed to mentor high school students through the college application process to Western universities. ChaseFuture provides comprehensive application coaching services such as essay and resume revisions, video calling with mentors, and suggestions for possible match universities. Nance explains, I've long believed in the transformative power of mentorship because mentors including my parents, grandfathers, coaches, pastors and teachers have changed my life. The right advice at the right time can be defining.”

The company has garnered incredible success with more than 1,000 students admitted to the world’s most selective universities. In addition, ChaseFuture’s free instructional content has been viewed by more than 10 million readers. All the while, ChaseFuture emphasizes ethical and efficient methods throughout the college selection process.

Nance’s dedication to helping students extends beyond his customer base of high school students. As a highly active member within the UChicago community, Nance is a great example of a dedicated alumnus. Each year, he hosts externs at ChaseFuture in Shanghai through the Alumni Board of Governors Externship Program- the same program he took part in as a student. Along with helping students find their way, Nance says, “The benefits of participation in the ABG Externship Program have been numerous. We've implemented numerous ideas our externs have proposed and even hired one superstar.”

Nance advises his externs and other aspiring entrepreneurs, “Get started! Time on campus can be a wonderful apprenticeship for entrepreneurial leadership.”

One way for students to do just that is to get involved with UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship, Career Advancement’s pre-professional program for students interested in start-ups and other innovative careers.

And ChaseFuture, Nance added, is always looking for great people to serve as admissions mentors!

To learn more about Nance’s work at ChaseFuture, visit the company website. For more information about UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship, contact Program Director Jerry Huang.

 

Five years ago, UChicago alumnus Kurt Kimmerling would never have expected to be where he is today, the founder of Dressometry, a shopping start-up that helps consumers navigate the online marketplace with a robust search engine specifically for dresses. Some may recognize the Kimmerling name in association with Eckhart Consulting, the strategy and management consulting RSO on campus that Kurt, his brother, and a close friend founded as undergraduates.

Graduating from the University of Chicago in 2002 with a major in Mathematics with a Specialization in Economics, Kurt later returned to Hyde Park in 2008 to earn a Masters of Science in Financial Mathematics. In his professional career, Kurt has been a quantitative management associate and fixed income trader at Bank of America, a consultant with Oliver Wyman, a market risk manager for Swiss Re, and now, the founder of Dressometry. According to Kurt, “Making the jump from finance to fashion was a big change. Even though it has been a challenge, it’s given me the confidence to not feel pigeon holed into one particular industry.”

Kurt attributes much of his professional success to the College and its many resources, including Career Advancement. Kurt is impressed with the new offerings students have access to with the UChicago Careers In pre-professional programs, which prepares students for the professional world through experiences and specialized advising. When reflecting on the resources he personally utilized, Kurt said, “On-campus recruiting is the key to finding a job after undergrad or graduate school. I wouldn’t have found my jobs with Bank of America or Oliver Wyman without [Career Advancement].”

From his various internships and coursework, Kurt developed a love and affinity for data analytics and mathematics, which are still constant tools he utilizes at Dressometry. When asked about the creation of the start-up, Kurt said, “I was working on another start-up idea, which was a movie recommender for groups (mainly because my wife and I have such a hard time picking movies together). At that time, I was working with a couple of UChicago interns, and I started to ask them questions about other industries where we could apply the same type of solutions…I didn’t realize how bad the current search capabilities were for online shopping until talking to these student.” Kurt and his company continue to work with interns at UChicago and other institutions because he believes them to be the experts in solving the problem he and the team at Dressometry are trying to solve. When asked about the future, Kurt was hesitant to commit to a long-term plan, simply stating that in the coming year, he plans to still be working on Dressometry and to be changing the online shopping experience for consumers.

Kurt has also brought current UChicago students to work on his startup giving them hands on experiences in entrepreneurship. Current third year, Joan Wang, has been working with Dressometry since her first summer consulting on the company during a project for Eckhart Consulting. Now Joan works directly for Kurt, noting, “Working with Dressometry has been a crucial part of my college experience. Kurt has been an amazing mentor, and learning about Dressometry’s philosophy has inspired me to consider working in the startup sector. I’ve learned so many transferrable skills that would help me in any career path that I could choose to pursue.

To a college student reading this article, the educational and professional paths of Kurt Kimmerling may seem like a dream achievable by only a select few. To quite the anxious souls who may need a boost of confidence, Kurt shared this advice, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so do the thing you enjoy doing. You’ll be happier and you’ll also be more successful.” 

Five years ago, UChicago alumnus Kurt Kimmerling would never have expected to be where he is today, the founder of Dressometry, a shopping start-up that helps consumers navigate the online marketplace with a robust search engine specifically for dresses. Some may recognize the Kimmerling name in association with Eckhart Consulting, the strategy and management consulting RSO on campus that Kurt, his brother, and a close friend founded as undergraduates.

Graduating from the University of Chicago in 2002 with a major in Mathematics with a Specialization in Economics, Kurt later returned to Hyde Park in 2008 to earn a Masters of Science in Financial Mathematics. In his professional career, Kurt has been a quantitative management associate and fixed income trader at Bank of America, a consultant with Oliver Wyman, a market risk manager for Swiss Re, and now, the founder of Dressometry. According to Kurt, “Making the jump from finance to fashion was a big change. Even though it has been a challenge, it’s given me the confidence to not feel pigeon holed into one particular industry.”

Kurt attributes much of his professional success to the College and its many resources, including Career Advancement. Kurt is impressed with the new offerings students have access to with the UChicago Careers In pre-professional programs, which prepares students for the professional world through experiences and specialized advising. When reflecting on the resources he personally utilized, Kurt said, “On-campus recruiting is the key to finding a job after undergrad or graduate school. I wouldn’t have found my jobs with Bank of America or Oliver Wyman without [Career Advancement].”

From his various internships and coursework, Kurt developed a love and affinity for data analytics and mathematics, which are still constant tools he utilizes at Dressometry. When asked about the creation of the start-up, Kurt said, “I was working on another start-up idea, which was a movie recommender for groups (mainly because my wife and I have such a hard time picking movies together). At that time, I was working with a couple of UChicago interns, and I started to ask them questions about other industries where we could apply the same type of solutions…I didn’t realize how bad the current search capabilities were for online shopping until talking to these student.” Kurt and his company continue to work with interns at UChicago and other institutions because he believes them to be the experts in solving the problem he and the team at Dressometry are trying to solve. When asked about the future, Kurt was hesitant to commit to a long-term plan, simply stating that in the coming year, he plans to still be working on Dressometry and to be changing the online shopping experience for consumers.

Kurt has also brought current UChicago students to work on his startup giving them hands on experiences in entrepreneurship. Current third year, Joan Wang, has been working with Dressometry since her first summer consulting on the company during a project for Eckhart Consulting. Now Joan works directly for Kurt, noting, “Working with Dressometry has been a crucial part of my college experience. Kurt has been an amazing mentor, and learning about Dressometry’s philosophy has inspired me to consider working in the startup sector. I’ve learned so many transferrable skills that would help me in any career path that I could choose to pursue.

To a college student reading this article, the educational and professional paths of Kurt Kimmerling may seem like a dream achievable by only a select few. To quite the anxious souls who may need a boost of confidence, Kurt shared this advice, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so do the thing you enjoy doing. You’ll be happier and you’ll also be more successful.” 

Internet entrepreneurship touted in Speech at Booth.

At just 30 years old, Alexis Ohanian, already has a storied list of accomplishments. From co–founding the popular website reddit.com and helping launch travel website hipmunk.com, Ohanian has secured himself in the forefront of internet entrepreneurs. Named to the Forbes' 30 Under 30 twice, Ohanian is currently touring the nation speaking to students about his experiences and his new memoir, Without Their Permission.

Ohanian spoke at the Booth School of Business on February 19th as part of his tour. His stop at UChicago was sponsored by EnvisionDo, described by event organizer Ellie Su (AB'14) as “an organization focused on providing students with the opportunity to explore creativity and innovation in entrepreneurship.” Ellie noted that EnvisionDo has hosted a range of programs and events for students to participate in including “site visits to companies like Groupon and Lightbank, speakers like David Kadavy and Alexis Ohanihan, and conferences like the Chicago GastroConference.” EnvisionDo is one of several organizations on campus that partners with entrepreneurs to introduce students to career opportunities in entrepreneurship. Career Advancement offers UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship program which helps students explore these possible career paths.

During his speech, Ohanian focused on innovation and entrepreneurship and how students have a unique skill set: “Millenials have this technological fluency that the older generation didn't have, and the younger generation adopting the Internet can't fully utilize.” Ohanian focused on the internet as a mechanism for young entrepreneurs to achieve their goals. His overall message was one of believing in yourself, with Ohanian explaining, “There was this constant wall of negative reinforcement—haters gonna hate. It's scientifically proven. You just have to use criticism as encouragement to do better.”

For more information about a career in entrepreneurship, check out the UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship website.

Andrew Miller (AB '13) selected as emerging leader at WorldChicago and meets with State Department.

From his first visit to the Oriental Institute in high school, Andrew Miller (AB '13) was drawn to UChicago. Andrew remembers, “When I started learning more about the College, I was attracted by the emphasis on intellectual curiosity and rigor.” During his time as an undergraduate, Andrew became involved in many opportunities outside the classroom, working for the 4th Ward Aldermanic office through UChicago's Neighborhood Schools Program, working at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, and interning at the Ruhr Museum in Essen, Germany. Andrew notes that these opportunities “helped [him] become more aware of what [his&#93 personal strengths are, and how to develop them further.”

While working to further develop and expand his career goals, Andrew began meeting with advisers at Career Advancement on everything from resume and cover letter reviews, to finally applying to participate in the UChicago Public Interest Program &#40:UCPIP). A one–year fellowship program, UCPIP offers an opportunity to mentor and place talented graduates in public interest work. With over 100 fellows placed in the past 13 years UCPIP creates an exciting post–graduation experience. Andrew's fellowship placed him as a program coordinator with WorldChicago, a nonprofit that coordinates international exchange programs with the US Department of State. During his fellowship, Andrew worked on the International Visitor Leadership Program coordinating visits from influential individuals across the globe and bringing them to the US to meet with their professional counterparts.

Through WorldChicago's networks, Andrew was selected to participate in an Emerging Leaders Program, and attend a conference in Washington, DC. The trip included a meeting with the Argentinean Ambassador to the US, meeting Evan Ryan, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs, attending a special reception in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department, meeting with Zeenat Rahman, Special Adviser on Global Youth Issues to the Secretary of State, and moderating a panel with authors David Burstein and John Zogby. Andrew notes the trip, “was an excellent opportunity for me to network with people from around the country, explore career options, and develop professionally. Furthermore, I returned to WorldChicago with a renewed sense of my role in the Department of State's international diplomacy efforts.”

Andrew's experience with UCPIP placed him at the forefront of the nonprofit world. As he explains, “UCPIP did a great job matching me with an organization that suits my interests and skill set, and the seminars that it organizes are great professional development opportunities...UCPIP has given me a really great opportunity to explore the nonprofit world, gain professional experience, and learn new skills.”

For more information on the UCPIP program please visit https://careeradvancement.uchicago.edu/public-social-service/public-interest or contact S. Craig Denuyl, Assistant Director, University of Chicago Public and Social Service.

UChicago fourth year Joy Mao had a lot of career interests in her four years as an undergrad, “They’ve changed so many times, I’ve lost count. In the last four years, there were moments when I thought I'd be: a museum curator, an ecologist, a painter, a marketer, a fashion designer, a vagabond, a journalist, a full-time blogger, a businesswoman, and an entrepreneur.”

Her broad interests have led her to participate in two of Career Advancement’s pre-professional programs, UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts & Media (UCIJAM) as well as UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship (UCIE). Joy has also taken advantage of Career Advancement’s Externship program, with a placement at the Art Institute of Chicago, and had a Metcalf Internship at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. She credits these experiences with helping her focus, “These kinds of opportunities have helped me develop skills and narrow down my fields of interests.”

Joy’s involvement in UCIE has proved to be incredibly worthwhile: “The most rewarding thing about participating in UChicago's entrepreneurship scene is the amount of support that comes not just from mentors, but from students as well. Everyone gets so excited about innovation and ideas... it's really contagious and energizing!” Through Joy’s participation in UCIE she learned about local startup incubator 1871’s Campus challenge. During the 3-day startup event, students from the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and UChicago had the chance to bring a startup to life. Mike Huffstetler, vice president of 1871, was one of the driving forces behind the campus challenge. He explained that one of the program’s main goals was to “put students in a unique situation where they could collaborate with top students from other top universities…We wanted to immerse these students in some practical applications of entrepreneurship, and hopefully create a great company or two in the process.”

One of only 60 students selected to participate; Joy had the opportunity to listen to other student’s pitch ideas for possible startups. She was drawn to Allie Hastings of Northwestern Law who pitched the idea for a website to make moving easier. Joy, Allie, and six other students came together to begin working on a way to make connecting with reliable movers easier. In just 48 hours, students worked to create and launch their startup. Joy outlines the entire process that had to be completed, “we were able to conduct market research, design viable business and financial models, put together a brand identity package and user flow mock-ups for our website, and launch a working prototype (Alpacu.com).”The website serves as a location to connect people looking to move with movers who provide transparent and clear moving prices. People will be able to clearly see how movers will charge them and pick the most cost effective company. Joy’s team presented Alpacu.com to a panel of judges showcasing their branding, business model, and the platform for their startup. Joy’s team was judged the best, and won a year-long office subscription at 1871.

As Joy prepares to graduate, she has a clear picture of her immediate future, “I would like to be working in a design and marketing capacity. In five, maybe I'll be completing an MBA and preparing myself for a career in design consulting or business.” She added she’s certain about one more thing too, “I'll definitely have a cat.”

For more information about a career in entrepreneurship, check out the UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship website.

 

 

The College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) provides an opportunity for student entrepreneurs to create feasible non-profit or for-profit enterprises that have a positive impact, financially or socially, on the community.

The students work as part of teams and have the support and assistance of alumni mentors, sponsors and donors in putting forth an innovative product or service. This competition is organized and sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the UChicago Booth School of Business.

When asked what inspired him to join the College New Venture Challenge, a third year, Zihan Xu, a Semi-Finalist in CNVC, said “(Its) a great educational opportunity for me. By participating, I want to acquire critical feedback on my idea, strategy, and the viability of the venture, and thus help me to reevaluate and to readjust my idea. I also want to take advantage of the resources such as mentorship, legal counseling, (and the) network that CNVC offers…CNVC is designed to be a pre-incubator tool, which can help us to formalize our idea and pave the road for the launch of our company.” Zihan’s team is creating an app for users ages 14-24 to share emotions, excitement, and ideas in a semi- anonymous forum.  The company was inspired by Zihan’s own need for an outlet to express feelings about a crush. In the true entrepreneurial spirit, Zihan took the idea and formed it into his team’s company. Zihan’s team will compete against eleven other semi-finalists in the CNVC. The teams include, AcadeMe, BlueClip, Clover, Curated, JMSolutions, Lensplease, Phoenix Development Fund, SketchOff, Uevents, Virtual Learning Experience, and Yellowcoin.

The competition itself is split into three phases. First, 15 semifinalists are chosen from the teams that submit non-profit or for-profit start up plans. The teams are then given time to revise their projects and ideas and then a second round of pitches for these start-ups are given. Five finalists are picked from the group and further their start up plans. Finally, the winners are selected and are awarded prize money.

Zihan, when asked what his team would do with the prize money if they won said ”We are pursuing our idea as a real business. And therefore, prize money will be part of our seed funding to give our project a kick start!” CNVC is definitely a wonderful platform for that. Winners in the past have been featured in the New York Times and other media outlets that have offered students the exposure needed to further promote their product pitch.

This is an incredibly exciting opportunity for student entrepreneurs to find the support and platform they need to advance their business venture ideas.

For more information, please visit the New Venture Challenge site.

Arnav Dalmia (AB’13) accepted an offer in the summer after his third year to intern with a corporate firm.

Like most office employees, Arnav found himself sitting at a desk for hours on end every single day. A self-described “health freak” through college, Arnav found that his sedentary lifestyle at work led him to feel “lethargic, inactive, and unheathy,” a sentiment that was shared by many of his colleagues. Around the same time, he stumbled across an article in Wired – “Sitting is Killing You”. Arnav threw himself into researching the physical and mental effects of long days sitting at a computer, and became passionate about finding a way to not only improve his activity levels but also track calories burned. He discovered a myriad of fitness trackers, and decided that he wanted to create a product that “could complement existing fitness trackers” rather than compete with existing models. With these seeds of invention, Cubii, the under-desk elliptical trainer, was born.

Arnav and some of his UChicago classmates founded FitnessCubed to launch the Cubii, and took their invention to the Clinton Global Initiative University, The University of Chicago Polsky Accelerator, and The University of Chicago New Venture Challenge in 2013. At these events, they started to gain traction and interest in their concept, just a year after Arnav had started to feel unhappy about his workplace lifestyle.

Not every step of the way has been easy and filled with innovation, though.  Arnav identifies the unique difficulties of hardware startups that don’t exist in software startups, including the “inability to easily modify or test hardware product due to high production and prototyping costs”. Nevertheless, the team is moving forward with plans to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, hoping to eventually “expand Cubii into as many countries and tap as many markets as possible” and “add new and innovative features” to their product.

For more information about a career in entrepreneurship, check out the UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship website.

Team Members

  • Austen Mance, AB’16
  • Nina Lu, (University of Pennsylvania) AB’16

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