There was a battle royal in the city of Chicago Friday.
Four teams of entrepreneurs faced off for the chance to win $50,000 to fund their startup, but really they’d already won. Each of the four teams participated in the Pritzker Group Venture Fellows Program for the summer, two each from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
“The Pritzker Group Venture Fellows Program is all about trying to help graduate students at Booth and Kellogg realize their entrepreneurial dreams,” Vice President at Pritzker Group Venture Capital Gabe Greenbaum (pictured left) said. “We noticed that a lot of entrepreneurs in grad schools were creating ideas but hitting a roadblock over their summers, where they might otherwise lose momentum in an effort to get their companies off the ground as full-time endeavors. The program was meant to create a bridge over these summers to help entrepreneurs bring their product to market and try to raise their initial rounds of capital. We see the program as a way for PGVC to help the companies think through and achieve product/market fit, to provide strategic advice and introductions and to bring to the table a network of other former students, who have faced similar challenges for advice.”
Startups must be tech focused and go through an application and interview process in the spring for selection to the program, much like a traditional accelerator. They are initially awarded $20,000 per team, 1871 office space, usage of Techstars MBA resources, and — perhaps most importantly — access to and mentoring from the Pritzker network.
ExplORer, this year’s winner, is a healthcare workflow management tool for the operating room that improves communication and awareness as well as efficiency, cost savings, and outcomes. Their application displays the tools, equipment, and tasks each surgical team member should have at the ready in order to facilitate optimal delivery of surgical care.
“The Pritzker team has been a fantastic partner this summer. Numerous discussions with the broader group and one-on-one conversations with most of the venture team have provided tremendous learnings for our team that we implemented immediately,” Jennifer Fried, COO at ExplORer, said. “PGVC is well immersed in the Chicago and broader healthcare technology community, and provided connections to our teams that opened doors to potential advisors, customers, channel partners, and team members. In addition, the team helped us further refine our business strategy, particularly on our customer segmentation and adding new team members.”
The other three participants included Touchtrail, a way for game studios and app developers to optimize financial performance through advanced data analytics, Maestro, the “Keurig for food,” and Triveso, a revolutionary real estate solution.
The program is fairly new, beginning in the summer of 2013 with exclusively Kellogg students, but the results of the program have continued to exceed expectations.Three out of four previous Pritzker Group Venture Fellow's companies, from 2013 and 2014, were successfully capitalized in an initial round of funding, including Page Vault, Four Kites and Edovo (Jail Education Solutions).
"The Pritzker Group Venture Fellows program was critical in taking Page Vault to the next level,” Page Vault Founder and CEO Jeff Eschbach said. “The program's strategic and operational guidance quickly accelerated our company into a revenue-generating business, and the Pritzker Group's network connected us with supporters and investors across the country. Even today, their team still offers regular guidance to help keep us on track. We owe a lot to the Venture Fellows program for making Page Vault a growing company!"
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