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On Tuesday August 28th, I had the privilege to witness the Polsky Accelerator Demo Day held at The University of Chicago. It was an educational and inspirational event as several student teams presented innovative startup ideas, many of which have potential for significant social or economic impact. The presentations included themes directly aligned with many of the UN Global Goals for sustainable development including Goal 3 - Good Health and Well Being , Goal 4 - Quality Education, and Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production.

Now in its seventh year, the Polsky Accelerator has become well-known for the strong portfolio of companies it has helped – including notable alumni such as BallotReady, Moneythink, and ZipFit Denim. Alum companies have raised more than $10 million in funding – with three companies having been acquired (HireBrite, matchist, and SmartLine).

The 2018 Polsky Accelerator teams each received a $10,000 investment from the Polsky Center, and all are headquartered at the Polsky Exchange. This year, Demo Day was comprised of two parts to make it easier for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago to engage with the Polsky Accelerator companies. The day began with a 1.5 hour Innovation Showcase so that judges and attendees could mingle with each Accelerator company over lunch. After the Innovation Showcase, the Demo Day pitches began and each team gave five minute pitches before the Demo Day audience of Chicago-area investors and entrepreneurs, media from various outlets and UChicago students, faculty and staff.

The day included presentations from the following teams:

  • Aegis.AI employs computer vision to detect firearms and weapons on real-time security camera feeds, then immediately notifies law enforcement and bystanders.

  • Boss Bites is a snack company that uses nutrient-dense ingredients and seasonings from around the world to provide you a better way of satisfying your cravings for a salty snack.

  • BTRFY is a food company leveraging science and technology to make delicious snacks that are better for you and better for the environment by upcycling brewery byproduct.

  • Debate it Forward is a 501c3 non-profit organization. We cultivate healthy discussion through improving self-advocacy, harnessing analytical thinking, and developing respectful disagreement among young people.

  • D20 Robotics brings technology and alcohol together to create exciting new experiences for the purposes of advertising and marketing in the alcoholic beverage space.

  • Fiduscript provides life-saving resources to substance users online.

  • FUSE is creating a new messaging app that allows users to engage more meaningfully by curating group conversations around current events.

  • GGLeagues is a recreational video game league designed to make gaming a social experience for players by providing a structure similar to recreational/intramural sports leagues.

  • Gather Activism is the digital tool for activism.

  • Hyphen-Healthcare is a web-based platform that makes it easy and affordable for employers to cover the cost of basic healthcare services for part-time employees.

  • Kaoshi provides a platform that enables peer-to-peer international money transfer.

  • SinkGuard designs and licenses products that help control infections in the ICU.

  • Veda Grace is a AI dermatologist that ensures women achieve better outcomes from skin care.

Our Midwest team will continue to participate in other innovation ecosystem events of this nature to connect and contribute to the startup scene.
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