BrewBike named semifinalist in UChicago startup launch competition


Sophie Mann/Daily Senior Staffer

BrewBike in Annenberg Hall. The coffee venture is among 30 semifinalists that will advance to the second phase of a startup launch competition.

Caitlin Chen, Reporter

BrewBike, Northwestern’s first student-owned and -run coffee shop, was named a semifinalist in the New Venture Challenge, a startup launch competition hosted by the University of Chicago.

The coffee venture is among 30 semifinalists that will advance to the second phase of the nationally-ranked accelerator program, the University of Chicago announced on Friday. The competition, launched in 1996, is run by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

University of Chicago MBA student Randy Paris, who wrote the NVC application for the BrewBike team, compared the application to “a case you’re making for growth.” It included a feasibility study assessing the practicality of BrewBike’s business plan, as well as an FAQ section and financial projections, Paris added.

“I think it’s a really unique opportunity to grow the business,” Paris said. “You get help from a team of Booth students who are investing a ton of time in assigning the idea, preparing the company for growth and just making BrewBike that much more awesome.”

The team, which also includes BrewBike co-founder and CEO Lucas Philips, proposed in its application a franchise model that would involve opening BrewBike tricycles in college campuses around the country. Ideally, new locations would have the climate to support only the outdoor tricycle and have large and flat campuses, Philips said.

Philips brought the idea of BrewBike to The Garage, NU’s hub for student entrepreneurship and innovation, as a freshman. After receiving startup funding on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform, Philips established the BrewBike tricycle in fall 2016, and established a second location in Annenberg Hall the following winter.

Philips is part of The Garage’s fellows program, which helps promising undergraduates maintain their startups through mentorship. Startups receive $1,500 from The Garage as well as connections to resources in Chicago, such as legal counsel and brand strategy agencies.

The Garage’s associate director Billy Banks, who said he serves as an informal mentor to Philips, said BrewBike has an “edge” over other participants in the challenge since it is already a established business, while other competitors may still be developing their business models.

“We’re excited for him, and we’ll be doing everything we can on our end to help provide those resources and those mentors who can help achieve that goal of winning it,” Banks said.

In March, April and May, selected teams will pitch to panels of judges. If BrewBike is selected as one of the ten teams to advance to the finals in May, they will share a cash prize pool, which last year was $400,000. The first place winners will take home at least $75,000.

For Philips, the most valuable part of BrewBike has been the “learning and experience.”

“The risk of your startup failing as a college student is way less than the risk of your startup failing as a person who graduated college and actually has to pay their bills and maintain their whole lifestyle,” Philips said. “I’m just learning how to take risks.”

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