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Booth’s New Venture Challenge Enters Its 15th Year

Entering its 15th year, the Booth School of Business’s New Venture Challenge can boast numerous successful entrepreneurs amongst its past participants, including the founders of well-known companies such as Braintree, GrubHub, and Bump Technologies.

While many business schools have entrepreneurship competitions, the New Venture Challenge resembles more of a business accelerator than a college competition. Founded in 1998, the challenge has been around for twice as long as commonly known accelerators like TechStars and Y Combinator. “We discovered the model years before they did,” says Steve Kaplan, the Booth professor who first created the program and continues to lead it. “And we probably should have commercialized it.”

However, the New Venture Challenge does have several key differences from business accelerators; perhaps the most notable difference is that at least one member of every company team competing must be a Booth MBA student. In addition, the teams do not simply apply to the challenge, but instead participate in a series of events and workshops to narrow the participation in the challenge (which occurs in the spring) from typically around 100 teams to 30 teams. The final 30 participants receive course credit for their involvement.

Kaplan explains, “We don’t say, ‘Here’s how to start your business.’ It’s not a cookbook course. But what we do is really increase the odds they succeed and the speed at which they make progress.” After 15 years, the model is only becoming more successful as the program’s network continues to grow. “It’s a virtuous circle here,” says Kaplan. “Previous winners help the new students. It really is a pleasure to watch.”

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