Image courtesy of Michael Krakaris
NUVC: The Big Spring Business Thing
Northwestern University entrepreneurship group EPIC will be holding its third annual Venture Challenge on June 4. It’s a competition where Northwestern startups showcase their potential for a chance to win early-stage funding. In Mid-April, over 70 applicants submitted executive summaries for a preliminary review. After being judged on market opportunity, financial viability, growth potential, and professionalism, 25 qualified teams will be selected to pitch their business at the semi-finals on June 4, followed by a Q&A session with the judges. The teams will be separated into categories— Health, Business Products, Consumer Products, Energy, and Social Entrepreneurship— to make the judging process easier. The winner of each category will be able to compete in the finals for a chance to win up to $40,000 in prize money. Intrigued and wanting to learn more about this wonderful event, Northwestern Business Review reached out to Michael Krakaris, Weinberg junior and Director of NUVC, for an exclusive inside view of the Northwestern University Venture Challenge.
Q&A with Michael:
Allison Lu: So, What actually is the Northwestern University Venture Challenge?
Michael Krakaris: It’s a competition for Northwestern affiliated startups to present themselves to gain some capital they can use to further the development of their various businesses. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to bring together startups of all different stages, from all different fields, and the people behind them. It’s interesting— it has no limits.
AL: Who can compete in NUVC?
MK: Anyone, as long as you have a good idea and at least one Northwestern student on the managing team.
AL: How did you get involved in NUVC?
MK: I joined EPIC last spring, and I was part of the NUVC team. I was interested in interning at startups, and wanted to contribute to business and technology, so I watched and volunteered at last year’s event. It was an amazing experience. It stuck out to me as bringing both business and technology together at the highest level. I saw the potential it had and where it could be in the future. And now, I’m the director of NUVC. I’ve been that since July.
AL: What’s your favorite part of NUVC?
MK: Probably seeing the progress and the support that we get. People from Weinberg, McCormick, School of Law, Kellogg, whichever school, all come together to support this one vision of creating a platform of opportunities. Leading the effort is great, too. It’s really rewarding just watching the teams grow. The competition is great, and it’s a lot of good times and fun.
AL: Who was the winner last year, and what did they do?
MK: PageVault was the overall winner, and they developed a web application that helped lawyers collect web pages as legal evidence both safely and securely. Second place went to Innoblative, which came up with a unique way to channel non-ionizing energy to destroy residual breast cancer. Another really cool one was 3rd place winner AMPY, formerly named MyPower. They made a cheap smartphone charger that gets charged by walking. They have already raised over $300K!
AL: What makes this year’s Venture Challenge different than ones from years past?
MK: Last year’s VC was really cool, but it was challenging because it was our first time working with different ideas from many different departments. We also had a lot of local Chicago and Midwest-based venture capitalists. This year, we’re really taking things to the next level. We’re holding workshops and training sessions to better prepare the contestants. We also have more sponsors and a lot more prize money this year. But the coolest thing is, in addition to our Chicago VC’s, we are bringing in some of the top Venture Capitalists from all over the country, such as Silicon Valley, and connecting them to students right here at NU.
AL: As the director of NUVC, What’s the best advice you could give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
MK: Don’t be discouraged. You have to take HUGE risks, allocate HUGE amounts of time, and most importantly, learn from your experiences even as you face tremendous adversities. It’s different from 20 years ago. College kids are changing the world- what with Snapchat, Stripe, Yik Yak, etc.- you just have to have the drive to make it.
As for now, the applicants are many, and the competition is fierce— so watch out, this year’s Northwestern Venture Challenge is hoping to bring some fresh designs and new ideas to the table. It’s more than a pitch competition or a talent show- it’s a platform that brings together real people to express the real ideas that they’re passionate for. It’s an opportunity to innovate and inspire the world, one startup at a time.
For more information about NUVC, please visit the NUVC website at http://nuvc.nuisepic.com/.
Northwestern University Venture Challenge is a Northwestern University event, not just an EPIC event. This will be NU’s seventh annual event. NBR regrets the error.