Three Chicago startups will represent the city at the regional 1776 Challenge Cup competition.

BallotReady, Hazel Technologies, and Fletch App were named local winners at the 1776 Challenge Cup competition held at 1871 on Tuesday. They beat out 15 other startups to move forward in the global startup competition spearheaded by Washington DC coworking space 1776. The competition takes place in three parts: 45 local competitions, nine regional competitions, and one global competition, which takes place June of this year. The grand prize includes $175,000 in cash and up to $1 million in investments.

Local winners receive free airfare, hotel lodging, and expenses for the regional finals, $150 in Amazon Web Service credits including 30 days of business support, and access to training and workshops.

Last year local startup Reliefwatch was a global finalist, won the health division, and received a total of $100,000 in prize money.

Here’s a look at the three local winners that will move on to regional finals this spring.


The political tech startup launched out of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics aggregates and reports unbiased information about candidates in elections. The online platform, cofounded by Alex Niemczewski and Aviva Rosman, lets users type in their zip code and scan information about candidates from the local to federal level, plus sort candidates’ policies based on issues. BallotReady won the Social New Venture Challenge last spring, received funding from the National Science Foundation, and is backed by the Knight Foundation.

Hazel Technologies

This sustainability startup out of Northwestern is developing patented tech to increase the shelf life of produce at grocery stores. Their biodegradable FruitBrite capsules utilize nanotechnology to reduce spoilage in the food supply chain. The startup worked out of The Garage in Evanston this summer and placed second in the Green Energy and Sustainability track at the 2015 Northwestern University Venture Challenge, winning $10,000.


This edtech startup currently going through Impact Engine, and has incubated in DeVry’s DV X Labs provides a simple way for students to create and organize study groups. Their app allows students to take photos of notes and share on their phone, invite classmates to join a study group, and find study groups created for their class. Their aim is to help retain college students through building relationships.

Note: the story has been updated to reflect Fletch at Impact Engine.