A startup that connects international medical students to clinical rotations in United States hospitals won the 2017 University of Chicago New Venture Challenge.
AMOpportunities won the top prize of $100,000 at the startup pitch competition, hosted by the Booth School of Business and Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.
The startup aims to help the 2.2 million international medical trainees seeking the clinical rotations and observerships needed to apply for medical residencies in the United States, cofounder and CEO Kyle Swinsky said. On their platform, medical students fill out a profile with their qualifications (including recommendation letters and transcripts), and are presented with month-long rotations that match with their specialty and experience level. Students can upload necessary documents and fill out the application through the platform. AMOpportunities makes revenue from fees students pay for the rotations.
About 25 percent of US doctors are currently foreign-born, and the need for healthcare workers is expected to grow faster than the US can supply, the startup pointed out. AMOpportunities partners with hospitals, especially in underserved areas, to help train and connect with talent that’s overseas, but might not have the personal connections or network to find the rotation they need.
This is the toughest competition we’ve seen in the NVC
The startup, which launched in 2013, has over 1,200 customers and has cumulatively done $2.3 million in revenue. They’ll use the funding to boost customer acquisition, moving beyond the early adopters and tapping into a larger market of medical students. Eventually they hope to expand to other types of healthcare workers, and place students in additional countries, such as the UK and Australia.
Judges questioned whether potential changes in immigration policies would impact their ability to recruit international medical students to the platform, but founders said that their user base has only grown over the last few months and they don’t believe highly skilled workers are as likely to be impacted by any proposed changes. Currently, 95 percent of their users have been successful in getting the necessary visa.
AMOpportunities was founded by Swinsky, an evening student at Booth, and Benjamin Bradley, a Northwestern Kellogg student. Swinsky decided to go to business school with the purpose of scaling the startup.
“I skipped the internship season,” he said. “I knew this [startup] was it. And it always will be.”
With $400,000 in funding available (OCA Ventures and Caruso Family Foundation upped their contributions to the prize pool during the competition), AMOpportunities wasn’t the only startup that walked away from the competition with some cash.
Here’s a rundown of the full winners:
- $80,000: SwitchedSource, a startup licensing technology from Michigan State University to better control power flow and reduce outages for utilities companies.
- $75,000: Ezza, a startup creating a streamlined nail salon service.
- $40,000: ClostraBio, a startup developing a drug that can prevent allergic reactions to food.
- $20,000: SmarterCloud, a cloud-based cybersecurity platform that uses machine learning to identify and prevent internal data breaches.
- $20,000: Taina, a startup creating a tech platform to help financial institutions comply with tax regulations (also the winner of the Global New Venture Challenge).
- $20,000: 4women, a medtech startup developing an at-home, self-collection device for HPV DNA testing.
- $15,000: Banyan, a startup connecting local farms to chefs through an online marketplace.
- $10,000: Phyt, a startup developing an at-home pilates system, including a patented device and series of online classes.
- $10,000: Part Analytics, a startup improving the electronics parts procurement process.
- $10,000: Lancealot, a startup connecting producers with freelance video talent.
78 total teams applied for the competition earlier this year. Those teams were whittled down to 31 semifinalists who completed a quarter of coaching from professors and professional mentors from the community. 11 startups were selected to compete in the final pitch competition.
That’s the first time in 21 years that more than ten startups have been selected to pitch in the final round of the New Venture Challenge. Four of those teams were entirely comprised of women.
“This is the toughest competition we’ve seen in the NVC,” said Starr Marcello, executive director of the Polsky Center.
At least seven of the startups that didn’t make the final round, would have made the finals in years past, entrepreneurship professor Steve Kaplan noted during the competition.
The New Venture Challenge is a top-ranked university accelerator in the country, according to the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project. Since launching in 1996, the NVC has fostered 800 startups and 160 of those are still in operation, and companies launched out of the accelerator have raised over $575 million and achieved over $4 billion in exits and mergers.