CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a tough competition here in Chicago – young entrepreneurs trying to convince judges to invest in their businesses.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Wednesday, graduate students at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business are competing today as they start the businesses we’ll all know tomorrow with the New Venture Challenge.READ MORE: Weekend Guests At Six Flags Great America Say Crowds, Closed Rides, Huge Fight Involving 20 People Ruined Their Experience
David Rabie is a past New Venture Challenge winner. His business idea came about as he was preparing his meals for the week.
“Using multiple appliances took me three hours to make my food for the week, thinking, there has to be a better way to get all the best elements of home cooking, but without any of the work,” Rabie said.
So he thought, why not create a meal kit delivery business? He called it Tovala, and developed it at the U of C’s Booth School of Business – where he was a student.
“The school is a wealth of resources for people that want to become entrepreneurs,” Rabie said, “and because I was laser-focused on it, I was able to capitalize on all those different resources.”
For the New Venture Challenge, the budding entrepreneurs faced a tough group of judges – vying for financial investments to make their businesses a reality.
U of C professor Steve Kaplan co-founded the Challenge 25 years ago. He noted that the judges do not go easy on the students.READ MORE: Massive Chemical Plant Fire In Rockton, Illinois, Could Burn For Days
“We bring in like 10 or 15 entrepreneurs and investors when they present, and they – the first time they present, they really get, you know – eviscerated is maybe too strong, but they get beaten up, and it is so constructive,” Kaplan said. “And they fix things and they adjust. They get, you know, beaten up a little bit again – but it’s much better.”
You’ve heard of some of the companies that were born in the New Venture Challenge – Grubhub, Braintree, Simple Mills, Foxtrot and many others.
Williams : “It’s got to be incredibly fulfilling.”
Kaplan: “Jim, it is awesome – it is. I like to joke, the only good thing about getting older is my former students become more successful, and you get to see it.”
Rabie won the New Venture Challenge 2015. Today, his company has two facilities, including one on Chicago’s South Side – putting people to work in a community that needs jobs.
“It is quite a feeling to take something from a crazy idea into a business that is employing a couple hundred people, and you know, makes our customers happy on a regular basis,” Rabie said.
This year’s finals of the competition take place on Thursday, and $1 million is on the line.MORE NEWS: Mayor Lori Lightfoot Backs Declaring Juneteenth An Official City Holiday Starting Next Year
Still-active companies that were launched at the New Venture Challenge have created more than 13,000 jobs – half of them in Chicago.