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About VentureCat

VentureCat is Northwestern’s annual student startup competition and celebrates the University’s most promising student founders. The program culminates in a pitch competition in which more than $300,000 in non-dilutive prize money is distributed to student ventures. The program and non-dilutive prize money awarded to student ventures is made possible by generous sponsorship from the Levy Institute and Lanny and Sharon Martin, and Exelon, our Energy and Sustainability track sponsor.

Since 2014 ...

$1.1+ million
Non-dilutive funding awarded
$335+ million
Raised by VentureCat founders

History & How It Works

VentureCat is an evolution of the Northwestern University Venture Challenge (NUVC), which was originally introduced in 2007. From inception, NUVC distinguished itself from other pitch competitions around the globe by organizing competitors in industry-specific tracks. The track structure leverages the rich expertise of distinct schools from across the University in both graduate and undergraduate programs, and awards top teams with non-dilutive capital.

Students apply to the program in one of five distinct tracks:

  • Business Products and Services
  • Consumer Products and Services
  • Energy and Sustainability
  • Life Sciences and Medical Innovations
  • Social Impact.

Semifinalists are selected from the pool of applicants and participate in the four to five week Pitch Prep Program. The program includes pitch coaching, industry expert consultations and professional graphic design services.

At the culmination of the Pitch Prep Program, teams compete by track in private semifinals pitching their ventures to a panel of industry experts as judges. The top team in each track moves on to compete in finals with a panel of prominent investors and entrepreneurs. Competition day ends with the finalists taking the main stage to pitch one more time to an audience of hundreds of students, alums, and investors at the Public Showcase. The finals prizes are announced, and the audience votes for their favorite startup.

Organizers & Team

VentureCat is a collaborative program at Northwestern, supported by The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Kellogg School of Management, the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center and The Garage. Leaders from these organizations work together to produce the program each year. 


jessa-headshot.jpgJessa Fuller, Senior Program Administrator for VentureCat

As Senior Program Administrator for VentureCat, Jessa Fuller manages the planning and production of the startup competition event and leads strategizing for its future growth and development. Prior to joining Northwestern, Jessa was working at a global marketing agency partnering with Fortune 100 brands. She has also owned her own award-winning retail business in Chicago and worked in the startup world for several years focusing on marketing and product development. Jessa is a Northwestern alum and proud Wildcat, having graduated with a BS in Journalism.