Student startups awarded over $300,000 in annual VentureCat competition


Executive Director Melissa Kaufman announced the winners of virtual VentureCat 2021 at the end of the night.

Alex Perry, Assistant Campus Editor

Twenty-five student startups competed in this year’s virtual VentureCat, which involved multiple rounds of pitching before the winner, Por Adela, was selected Wednesday night.

Por Adela, a transportation-centered factory solutions startup, took first place at this year’s VentureCat competition, winning a total of $160,000 in prize money.

Organized by Kellogg School of Management, The Garage, The Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center and the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, VentureCat is an annual competition where student startups compete for funding via pitching sessions. Any student who is a founder or cofounder of a startup and a significant equity holder was eligible to apply, as long as they have not placed in finals at a previous VentureCat.

At Thursday’s competition, the teams had closed-door pitch sessions, competing in five categories: Business Products and Services, Consumer Products and Services, Energy and Sustainability, Life Sciences and Medical Innovations and Social Impact.

“The whole program is really meant to help them improve, help them build networks, and help them get ahead, no matter if they were a final prize winner or not,” said Jessa Fuller, senior program lead for VentureCat.

Kellogg graduate student Jaime Tabachnik, the co-founder of Por Adela, competed in the business-to-business category. Por Adela, Tabachnik said, focuses on efficiently connecting Latin American truckers to shippers.

“We have a $7.9 billion untapped market. This is a proven model,” Tabachnik said. “There are many companies in the US addressing this problem. In Latin America, on the other hand, we only found one company in Colombia, that is building a similar model.”

In the finals, Creator-focused Authentic Media Ascension won the alumni favorite elevator pitch award, granting them an additional $1,000. South Asian formal wear rental company LUKH won audience favorite, granting an additional $2,000. Coming in third place overall, springrose won an additional $25,000, while second-place team The Equal Opportunity Book Box took home an additional $50,000.

The second place team, the Equal Opportunity Book Box, is a monthly book subscription service that donates a children’s book for every book sold. Each donated book features a character from a marginalized community.

Founder and SESP graduate student Jacob Jordan started the company with last year’s Spring Quarter housing refund, and since then, has generated over $340,000 in sales.

“There is a giant unmet need for representative books. And this unmet need, it’s allowed for racism, homophobia, and ableism to fester,” Jordan said. “It’s an unmet need for all kids. Children’s books are windows because they can show kids from homogenous communities what the real world looks like.”

Melissa Kaufman, the executive director of The Garage closed out the event by awarding the winners with their additional cash prizes, thanking all the startups who competed, and recognizing the perseverance and innovation the student founders demonstrated this year.

“We hope that today’s prize money visibility and the programs additional resources give our students and their startups the boost they need to thrive outside of academia,” Kaufman said.

A previous version of this article misstated Por Adela’s prize money. The company earned $160,000, not $151,000. The article also misstated the school and graduating year of Jacob Jordan. Jordan is pursuing a masters through SPS. The article also misspelled Jessa Fuller’s name. The article also mischaracterized the nature of the donations from Equal Opportunity Book Box. Books are donated separately from the books purchased in the box. The Daily regrets these errors. 

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