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This is your weekly notification of the most share-worthy, news-worthy, and innovative happenings around the Polsky Center at the University of Chicago.

1 // Cubii's $100M deal.

Cofounded by two UChicago alums, Arnav Dalmia, AB' 13 and Shivani Jain, AB' 13, CNVC '13 alum Cubii has just announced a new strategic investment from Connecticut-based private equity firm Gridiron Capital for a controlling stake in the company, valued at an estimated $100M. What started as an "under-the-desk elliptical" for fitness-focused busy professionals, launched with the help of the College New Venture Challenge, Cubii has successfully evolved into something so much bigger. Aided in part by the current at-home fitness craze powered by coronavirus restrictions, the Cubii team has recently found a new niche of customers. Today, their compact portable elliptical device is used by everyone from health enthusiasts looking for easy ways to add extra movement into their busy days to seniors and surgical patients trying to find a safe way to become more active. Going forward, Dalmi and Jain, who each recently received the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest Award, plan to continue leading their 40-person team as they work in partnership with Gridiron to take Cubii's impact and growth to the next level. Read more now. And more.

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2 // Why Prof. Kaplan remains optimistic for the future of Chicago's tech ecosystem.

 
As the third most populated city in the country, Chicago's startup culture has always been an anomaly of sorts. Despite the city's size, and in stark contrast from other cities on each coast, Chicago entrepreneurs enjoy a less cut-throat and more "tight-knit" collaborative community than most other major entrepreneurial ecosystems. Chicago startups are known for coming together to lift each other up instead of continuously vying for a spot at the top. And yet, this encouraging culture still comes with its challenges, including what has historically been a less lucrative funding landscape than other tech hubs. However, as Chicago Booth's Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance, and Kessenich E.P. Faculty Director at the Polsky Center, Steve Kaplan explains, "People complain there’s no money here, but the good businesses get money just fine." If anything, he notes, Chicago's investors perhaps put more pressure on startups to generate cash quicker, but "that's not a bad thing." Read more now for Kaplan's insights on what will happen in Chicago and other markets in a post-COVID world.

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3 // Three Polsky-affiliated startups receive grants from the $5M Google for Startups Black Founders Fund.


In an effort to assist Black-founded startups across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic, The $5M Google for Startups Black Founders Fund was launched to provide Black-led startups with non-dilutive cash awards between $50K and $100K along with hands-on support to help accelerate their growth. And after revealing plans for the program in June, Google recently announced the founders and their startups who have been selected, a list which names three Booth-affiliated founders, two of which participated in the Edward L. Kaplan, '71, New Venture Challenge. We're thrilled to congratulate current Booth student and NVC '19 alum Jasmine Shells, founder of Five to Nine, NVC '09 alum Seyi Fabode, MBA '10, founder of Varuna Tech, and Polsky Incubator alum Daniel Rogers, MBA '13, cofounder of A.M. Money. And we cannot wait to see what each of these trailblazing founders does next. Read more. And see the full list of grant recipients from Google.

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4 // As the clock TikToks to election day, BallotReady helps prepare America's youngest voters with knowledge.


An invaluable tool for any voting-age American, especially as the upcoming election draws nearer, SNVC '15 winner BallotReady offers an in-depth voting guide importantly not just for the presidential race. BallotReady's online platform offers location-based information, providing detailed candidate data for every race on the ballots from all fifty states, from the president all the way down to circuit court retention. And for the nation's youngest voters casting their ballots for the first time, BallotReady recently embarked on an exciting partnership with social media app TikTok, creating an in-app guide to the elections, which offers its 100 million U.S. users information about the candidates, details about how to vote, educational videos about misinformation, media literacy, the election process, and more. Read more now.

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5 // Jüsto keep raising.


Seven months after closing a $10M seed round, Mexico-based online supermarket Jüsto raised another $12M. And now, just three months after that, they've added another $5M to the tally. Cofounded by Booth alum Ricardo Martinez Finger, MBA '13, this delivery-only grocery store operates entirely from website-based and mobile app orders. And after their previous raise this summer, the team expanded operations beyond their home base of Mexico City into Querétaro, where they witnessed tremendous growth at warp speed. The startup team reported that it took them just one week in Querétaro for their sales to reach what had taken 200 days in Mexico City. And now, bolstered by the clear demand for their services across the country, Jüsto is looking to expand to even more Mexican cities in addition to cities in Colombia, Peru, and potentially Ecuador - all within the next year. Read more now.

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6 // This startup Works wonders.


For people living with autism, finding a job can be nearly impossible, despite the fact that many individuals on the autism spectrum possess a great number of special skills and abilities that make them ideally suited for a number of important positions. These positions often require intense attention to detail and repetition, responsibilities that would be incredibly difficult or tedious for others, and yet, the interview process alone is often an insurmountable barrier. Thankfully, Booth alum David Friedman, MBA ’89, a longtime marketing executive, found a solution that solved for both sides of the problem. His marketing company, AutonomyWorks employs a team of people with autism, providing data-processing services like quality assurance for more than 2,300 websites a month, and reports a 90% reduction in product and pricing errors for their clients. Most recently, Friedman and a number of his employees were featured on the news television show "60 Minutes" on CBS to discuss the importance of employment for those with autism and what other companies can do to make an impact. Watch their segment now.

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7 // Money always talks, but this startup just makes cents.


An incredibly useful and unique tool, SNVC '18 alum Mighty Deposits is working to enable and encourage all U.S. consumers to take a closer look at what their banking dollars are doing. And the team has had quite the year so far, to say the least. Mighty launched their platform, a comparison website for all U.S. banks that details their impact and community investing, in February. And as the year continued, and more social issues continued to rise to the forefront of public discussion, Mighty enabled their website to grow alongside them. In the spring, when they realized there wasn't any sort of aggregator for banks still accepting PPP loan applications, they created one. And over the summer, Mighty Deposits was able to supply increasingly sought-after information on which banks are Black-owned or support diversity and inclusion initiatives. Most recently, the Mighty team has added a feature where users can search and filter credit unions in the same way they can for banks. Read more now.

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8 // Because access to fresh fruits and veggies shouldn't be a "luxury."


But that's the world Booth alum Liz Abunaw, MBA '14, recently experienced when she visited a neighborhood in Chicago's West Side. And she decided then and there that she would do something about it. She launched her startup, Forty Acres Fresh Market, an alum of the Polsky Small Business Growth Program, shortly after, traveling all across Chicago with a pop-up produce market and helping to solve Chicago's food inequities one neighborhood at a time. Originally, the plan was to eventually transition to real brick-and-mortar locations in the areas most affected by what Abunaw has termed a "food apartheid," but under pandemic restrictions, it's Forty Acres' new delivery service that has proven most successful. Read more now about this dedicated entrepreneur's journey.

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9 // Want to see what supersonic air travel looks like?


UChicago alum-cofounded startup Boom Supersonic wants to show you as they reveal their first fully-functioning prototype, the XB-1. The XB-1 is only a third of the size of their planned commercial passenger-sized jet, the Overture, but it will act as the first step in performing flight tests and proving their technology is viable for wide-scale commercial use. And as the Boom team works concurrently to further develop their eventual flagship airliner (slated for a 2025 completion), this supersonic startup has also importantly committed to carbon-neutral flight testing, maintaining sustainability as one of the company's main tenets. Boom will utilize carbon offsetting techniques as well as sustainable aviation fuels from Prometheus Fuels during all flight tests to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, we'll keep daydreaming of breakfast in Paris with lunch in NYC. Read more now.

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10 // As temps cool down, these startups just keep heating up.

 
Even during a global pandemic, success must be celebrated. And we are beyond excited to celebrate the startups that have found ways to not simply "survive" these challenging times, but also to thrive. Chicago Inno recently named their annual list of Chicago's "50 on Fire," a collection of people, businesses, and organizations who, despite all the odds, have come out on top in 2020. The companies on the list span from early-stage growth companies to some of Chicago's biggest tech pillars and include quite a few familiar faces. Join us in congratulating UChicago- and Polsky-affiliated companies: CancerIQ, ChangEd, Cubii, Equilibria, FoxtrotGrubhubKin InsuranceNature’s Fynd, and Tovala. Read more now.

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UPCOMING EVENTS & DEADLINES

The below events will be available online or via Zoom Conferencing.

10/12 - Distinguished Entrepreneur Series: A Fireside Chat with Douglas Becker
10/12 - Info Session: Sterling Partners Investment Thesis Challenge (SPITC)
10/13 - IIR Workshop: Women in PE/VC Roundtable
10/13 - Small Business Essentials: Creating a Loyalty Program
10/13 - Application Deadline: Innovation Fund Associates (IFA)
10/13 - College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) Networking Night
10/14 - Entrepreneurship Essentials: Approaches to Discovering Your Customer
10/14 - Polsky Center Quick Pitch
10/15 - Alumni New Venture Challenge (ANVC) 2021 Kick-off Webinar
10/17 - Entrepreneurship Essentials: Marketing Strategy
10/19 - SBIR/STTR Technical Assistance Program
10/19 - Info Session: Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC)
10/19 - Entrepreneurship Essentials: Legal Issues for Startups
10/20 - PE Lunch with Polsky IIR Tim Kelly, MBA ’00
10/21 - Entrepreneurship Essentials: Digital Tools for Startups
10/22 - Polsky Center Quick Pitches
10/22 - IIR Workshop: How to Build a Strong Investment Thesis
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