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VentureCat, Northwestern’s student startup competition, will be held on May 22, 2019. Twenty five of Northwestern’s most promising student-founded startups will participate in a day-long showcase and celebration and compete for over $100,000 in prize money.


Teams must consist of at least one current Northwestern University student. Teams can be of any size and ventures can cover any industry. Teams that have previously placed and won prize money in the VentureCat Finals are precluded from participating. Semifinalists must be committed to fully participating in the Four Week Semifinalist Prep Program. Applications for VentureCat 2019 are currently closed. Please sign up for The Garage email newsletter here to be notified when applications open.

VentureCat Tracks:

  1. Business Products + Services (B to B)
  2. Consumer Products + Services (B to C)
  3. Energy + Sustainability
  4. Life Sciences + Medical Innovations
  5. Social Impact + Nonprofit

Frequently Asked Questions

When do applications open and close?

Applications are currently closed. Applications will reopen in 2019.

Do winners give up an equity stake in their startups?

No. The prize money is non-dilutive capital and there is no exchange for equity with Northwestern or any of our sponsors.

How much can I win?

Prizes money is dependent on fundraising. In 2018, the 1st place track winners received $5,000 and the 2nd place track winners received $3,000. The Grand Prizes, distributed at finals were 1st place $30,000, 2nd place $15,000 and 3rd place $10,000. Therefore, a team that won their track and the 1st place Grand Prize could win $5,000 + $30,000 = $35,000.

Who is eligible to participate?

Teams must consist of at least one current Northwestern University student enrolled in a 2018-19 academic program (undergrad, grad or PhD). Teams can be of any size and ventures can cover any industry. Teams that have previously won a Grand Prize cannot participate. Teams that won prize money in a semifinals round are eligible to apply.

Am I eligible to participate if I graduated earlier this year?

Students who participated in an academic program (full-time or part-time) in academic year 2017-18 are eligible to apply.

When will semifinalists be announced?

Semifinalists will be notified via email.

Can alumni participate?

There must be at least one current student who is an integral member of the team. Only current students are allowed to present at semifinals and finals.

Does my startup need to be a registered corporation to apply?

Your startup does not need to be a registered corporation to apply; however, prize money will be distributed via a check made out to your registered business name. We recommend that all semifinalist teams incorporate before finals on May 22nd.

Can I apply in more than one track?

No. You can only apply to one of the tracks that is the most appropriate for your startup. The VentureCat organizers reserve the right to move startups to the most appropriate track.

How far along should my startup be?

VentureCat is a startup competition, not a business idea competition. Entries should be a viable startup that the team is actively working on.  The startup should have some traction. We expect that most entries will be pre-revenue. We discourage startups with more than $2M in revenue from applying.