The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is pleased to announce the winners of the 10th Annual College New Venture Challenge (CNVC), which awarded $150,000 in investment to a diverse slate of startups helmed by undergraduates.
The first-place prize went to OrganX Scientific, which is developing a next-generation preservation system for transporting organs so as to improve transplant outcomes and expand the donor pool. Led by third-year College student George Li, who cofounded the startup with UChicago Medicine researcher Daniel Rodgers, OrganX received $60,000 in investment.
Second place was a tie between Haylon Technologies and StandOut Search, each of which received $30,000 in investment.
Haylon Technologies prolongs battery life through a system that can intelligently switch between different energy sources to accomplish different tasks. StandOut Search is a platform that matches high-school students with internships at startups. Both second-place finishers are helmed by undergrads from UChicago as well as University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
“Every year I am wowed by the sophistication of our College teams and their ambitious innovations,” said Starr Marcello, AM ’04, MBA ’17, deputy dean for MBA programs at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and professor of the CNVC. “Particularly impressive this year was the breadth of ideas, which range from consumer-facing ventures in male cosmetics and marijuana edibles to potentially trailblazing advances in sustainable development and medicine. All of the teams have bright futures ahead of them.”
The program, which consists of a credit-bearing course at Chicago Booth during the winter quarter that culminates in a venture launch competition, is open to returning UChicago undergraduate students as well as students in the entrepreneurship track of the City Scholars program at UIUC, a partnership now in its third year.
Thursday’s CNVC finals took place in person for the first time since 2020. The seven finalist teams presented their business plans to a judging panel composed of investors, entrepreneurs, alumni, and faculty, who peppered them with challenging questions before going behind closed doors to deliberate and select the winners.
Each of the seven finalist teams received investment. They are:
First Place – $60,000
OrganX Scientific // OrganX Scientific is creating innovative organ preservation devices that increase the donor pool and improve patient outcomes.
Second Place (tie) – $30,000 each
Haylon Technologies // Haylon Technologies enables batteries with significantly higher battery life through a new kind of battery management system that can intelligently switch between different energy sources to accomplish different tasks. Haylon is currently producing a fixed-wing drone battery with 40% greater battery life. (Team includes UIUC and UChicago students).
StandOut Search (tie) // StandOut Search is a double-sided platform that matches high school students with internships at startups. (Team includes UChicago and UIUC students).
Third Place (tie) – $10,000 each
Natuur Brands // Natuur Brands (formerly Summit) has created the Natuur Bite, a golf-ball-sized, plant-based, healthy marijuana edible. Each bite contains almonds, dates, and granola, in addition to 5 mg of cutting-edge, fast-acting THC.
Tiimu // Tiimu aims to invigorate sustainable development by pioneering a novel last-mile distribution strategy to deliver sustainable cooking and energy solutions to under-served rural Ugandan consumers. Financed by selling the carbon emissions reductions as credits to companies, the distribution network will scale access to better quality of life for millions across sub-Saharan Africa, while creating public goods essential to fixing the climate crisis.
Fourth Place (tie) – $5,000 each
Baryl // Baryl plans hyper-personalized trips within minutes. Its AI engine helps travelers discover the best things to eat and do based on their travel personalities.
ZERO for Men // ZERO for Men is focused on serving the health and image of the modern male who wants to feel conﬁdent and look his best. The ZERO Stick was designed by men for men to cover pimples, acne, dark circles and other blemishes instantly. ZERO for Men believes nothing should get in your way… ZERO.
The NVC has a track record of nurturing successful companies, including Braintree, Simple Mills, Foxtrot, Tovala, and Grubhub. Its alumni include more than 370 still-active companies that have raised more than $1.2 billion in investment and achieved some $8.5 million in mergers and exits.
Li, OrganX’s CEO, hopes to add his startup to the list.
“We’re amazed and humbled for this support from UChicago,” said Li, who is triple-majoring in biological chemistry, biological sciences, and chemistry. “This is without a doubt the most interesting project of my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to take OrganX to the next level.”