12/4/2015 - The Kellogg School of Management named nine students to the 2015-16 cohort of Zell Fellows, a program designed to help students develop market-ready businesses by graduation.
The Zell Fellows Program — formerly known as the Zell Scholars Program — provides students who are either founding a startup or beginning to grow their fledging ventures more than $25,000 per student for a variety of business expenses. The program also offers leadership coaching and mentoring from seasoned entrepreneurs who have navigated the pitfalls awaiting any new business.
It’s an application-only, two-quarter program funded by Equity Group Investments LLC Chairman Sam Zell. Now in its third year, the Zell Fellows program has already provided executive support to 19 fellows who are running or have founded businesses.
While helping students launch or grow businesses is integral to the program, the crux of the fellowship is to transform students into strong entrepreneurs, said David Schonthal ’09
, program director and clinical assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship.
“It’s really about the growth of a student,” Schonthal says. “The business is the medium, but ultimately we want to see people become great entrepreneurs now or at some point in the future.”
An ‘amazing, customized experience’
Molding students into great entrepreneurs is aided in part by the fellowship’s funding, which covers costs such as hiring developers or a sales team. But the educational support that includes executive coaching, a vast pool of mentors from Chicago and around the world, and trips to San Francisco and Israel, proves the real draw for fellows.
“It’s an amazing, customized experience based on each startup,” says Jordan Hollander ’16, cofounder of CityKey, a platform that creates interactive city guides for hotels to give their guests upon check-in. “That’s a really great strategic fit for us,” he says. “Thinking about how he served and sold to restaurants is really applicable to what we’re doing.”
28 fellows and counting
The core of the program — assisting students so they can have a market-ready business prior to graduating — has already yielded impressive results. Zell Fellows have collectively raised more than $5 million in funding, and 17 student-founded ventures are still active.
“It does a lot of different things to maximize your chances of success,” says Blair Pircon ’16, a 2015-16 Zell Fellow and founder of The Graide Network, a virtual tool to connect aspiring middle and high school teachers with current teachers. Pircon says the program’s financial support is already helping her startup complete early tests of the platform.
In 2016, the Zell Fellows program will expand with a new Acquisitions and Ownership track for students who don’t want to found their own companies but are nonetheless interested in running a business by acquiring and growing an existing one.
Here are the nine new Zell Fellows:
Tushar Garg ’16
, a software platform that can estimate a home’s closing price, rate the underlying factors that are driving the home’s valuation and recommend positive return-on-investment improvements that would increase the home’s value
Jordan Hollander ’16
, an outsourced content marketing agency for hotels that will enable hoteliers to inspire their guests to plan less, do more and travel better
Nidheesh Patel ’16
, a web-enabled auto concierge business that will help customers book a preferred service center, customize their service plans, and track their car and its progress
Blair Pircon ’16
The Graide Network
, an online marketplace that connects teachers with qualified teaching assistants to grade and provide thorough, individualized feedback on student assignments
Bobby Powers ’16 MMM
, a social enterprise where early education teachers in developing countries can access thousands of dollars worth of quality materials and resources every year for a nominal fee through a sharing model
Justin Saeheng ’16 MMM
, a platform of intelligent robotics and image processing analytics for indoor and outdoor applications in various industries
Beth Santos '16
Wanderful, a global network that connects women travelers with guides, online content, 18 global chapters and an annual Women in Travel Summit
Asaf Segev ’16
Reatz, a service leveraging big data analytics to create a commercial real estate marketplace that empowers businesses with unique data and insights about retail spaces and the commercial areas around them
Rebecca Sholiton ’16
, a service that provides fresh, customized, allergy-friendly lunches delivered directly to families’ homes, eliminating the daily stress of making lunch