Published on December 20, 2011

This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.

Congratulations to SoapBox, the winner of the first annual Chicago Lean Startup Challenge, for an excellent presentation and execution of the lean startup ideas.  They’ve created a controlled digital space, designed to improve student engagement by breaking down the barriers students face when deciding whether or not to participate in class, that gives teachers a concrete assessment of student comprehension in real time.  Now students have the ability to ask questions digitally, without the embarrassment of raising their hand, and teachers have a tool to understand their student’s comprehension in real time.  Our fantastic sponsors provided $75,000 in cash and prizes to SoapBox and our other finalists to continue their endeavors.

A Great Group of Finalists

A special thank to our finalists ScoutmeCoach, Farmfixe, Travel720, and all of this year’s participants. It was incredibly hard to pick a winner with the high level of competition.  The agility, ingenuity, and persistence all of our finalists demonstrated on Thursday night was awe-inspiring.  These fantastic founders made great progress over the 3 months of the challenge, and we are eager to see how their companies continue to evolve.

Making a Difference

We created the Chicago Lean Start Up Challenge to teach Chicagoland founders how to practice the lean startup method in order to create a wave of lasting startups in the Chicagoland area. Based on the presentations by our finalists, the first season was an overwhelming success.  Our finalists showed not only a great depth of knowledge but the value of developing an idea based on reality, not assumptions.  Each of our finalists developed their original idea based on actual feedback from their target customers, be they teachers, organic farmers, college coaches, travelers, students, or even strangers at the grocery store.  This feedback allowed each team to modify their original assumptions, and rapidly evolve their business model based on the reality of the market place.

Crain’s Chicago had a nice feature on the event last week as well, so it seems we’re making something of a wider impact.

The 2012 Lean Startup Challenge

In true lean startup fashion, we’re gathering lessons learned from this year’s competition and applying them to make next year’s contest even better.  If you want to keep up to date on next year’s contest, or are interested in applying, join the Lean Startup Challenge mailing list.