University of Chicago’s Polsky Center Puts ‘Buy and Build’ Model of Entrepreneurship on Global Stage with First-Ever Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Week

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#Entrepreneurship–The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago is putting the ‘buy and build’ model of entrepreneurship on a global stage, hosting a first-ever ETA Week February 16-19, 2021.

ETA, which stands for entrepreneurship through acquisition, is when entrepreneurs acquire an existing company—instead of creating an entirely new company—and take on the leadership role of managing, growing, and scaling that company. ETA and the closely associated search fund model, an investment vehicle first established in 1984 where entrepreneurs raise capital from investors, offers an attractive career path for MBA students with strong operations and management experience.

“Several years ago we began to notice growing interest amongst students at Chicago Booth in the ETA model. In response, we developed a robust portfolio of resources to equip them with the skills and networks to raise capital, evaluate and acquire a company, and successfully lead it post acquisition,” said Alex Hodgkin, Polsky Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence and CEO of Intrinsic. “In doing so, we soon realized there was tremendous demand for ETA programming and are now supporting students not only at Chicago Booth, but also at other universities. We are also seeing interest from our alumni and other individuals who are later in their career and are looking to transition into entrepreneurship.”

The ETA program at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business was officially formed in 2014. It is co-led by Steven Kaplan, Alex Hodgkin, and Paul Cavalieri, and is supported by Chicago Booth faculty Brian O’Connor and Mark Agnew. Today, through the help of the Polsky Center, the program has expanded to include a credit-bearing MBA class at Chicago Booth, a podcast series with more than 100,000 unique downloads, a newsletter on ETA trends, and an annual ETA conference that brings together search fund entrepreneurs, investors, MBA students, faculty, and other participants in the ETA ecosystem.

Now in its seventh year, the ETA Conference hosted in partnership with Chicago Booth and Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management student groups has grown to attract a global audience. Last year’s conference, which was held in-person in downtown Chicago, featured 49 speakers, 16 sponsors, and over 575 attendees from 24 universities, 24 states, and six countries.

“The global appeal of the ETA model has been phenomenal so we decided to create ETA Week,” said Paul Cavalieri, associate director of entrepreneurship through acquisition at the Polsky Center. “Because of COVID-19, our annual ETA Conference needed to be 100% virtual, but we added new programming, additional days, and contracted with an AI-driven technology platform to foster networking between MBA students, investors, search fund experts, and aspiring entrepreneurs. I’m excited that our new virtual format will allow anyone from anywhere in the world the opportunity to learn about the ETA model.”

Starting February 16, the Polsky Center’s first-ever ETA Week includes 12 panels and networking sessions across four days culminating with the day-long Booth-Kellogg ETA Conference. Highlights include featured panels and experts speaking on the Challenges and Resilience for ETA Operators, ETA Legal Considerations, and Cybersecurity Diligence and Implementation, and more.

While Friday’s day-long conference is free to join, participants have the option to pay a nominal fee to gain access to the full ETA Week programming though Brella, a networking platform. Through the platform, attendees will have the opportunity to make a custom profile that highlights their interests and goals within ETA. From there, the AI-driven software will suggest people to meet based on mutual objectives. Attendees can easily set up one-on-one networking meetups with one another during the week.

Registration for the ETA Week closes February 18. To learn more and register, visit the ETA Week website.

About the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago

The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation applies world-class business expertise from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business to bring new ideas and breakthrough innovations to market. With a 60-person professional staff, the Polsky Center drives the creation of new ventures and commercial partnerships at the University of Chicago and beyond. As a global leader in entrepreneurship education, the Polsky Center provides training for aspiring entrepreneurs and those seeking a career in private equity, venture capital, and entrepreneurship through acquisition. Learn more at and follow updates on Twitter @polskycenter.

Fill out the “Get Started with the Polsky Center” online form to access our resources and subscribe to our newsletters, including the ETA Insider.


Melissa Fassbender

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