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Elevating Innovation

Northwestern's Alumni VentureCat Startup Competition

Overview

Alumni VentureCat, Northwestern's alumni startup competition, aims to feature and support innovative early-stage businesses founded by Northwestern University alumni by providing access and exposure to critical connections and resources. 

Five alumni founders will be selected to compete live and in-person at the Finals Public Showcase on Friday, July 19, 2024, at Northwestern’s academic space located in San Francisco’s Financial District.

The stakes are high, with the top finalist set to win $100,000. Winner takes all!

Finalists will pitch to a world-class panel of judges, as well as a curated audience of Bay Area investors, entrepreneurs, and Northwestern alumni. The Public Showcase will also be livestreamed as an added opportunity for finalists to expand reach and awareness of their businesses to a global virtual audience.

Selected finalists who live outside of the Bay Area will be provided transportation and hotel accommodations for the event as participation in-person is required.

SUBSCRIBE HERE to receive Alumni VentureCat 2024 news and announcements. 

The application will be open from Tuesday, February 20, 2024 to Friday, April 5, 2024 at 11:59 PM CT.  

Apply Here

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Timeline and Key Dates

  • February 20 - April 5, 2024: Accepting Applications  
  • June 12, 2024: Finalists Publicly Announced
  • July 19, 2024: Finals Public Showcase in San Francisco, CA 

Application Details

The application will be open from Tuesday, February 20, 2024 to Friday, April 5, 2024 at 11:59 PM CT.  

Alumni VentureCat Application Components:

  • A series of questions about you and your business
  • 1-Page Executive Summary
  • 10-slide pitch deck (If needed, 2-3 appendix slides can be included)
  • 60-second elevator pitch video (no graphics/animations, just you speaking to the camera)
  • W-9 for Company (with Employer Identification Number) 

Apply Here

Eligibility Requirements

Alumni VentureCat is a startup competition intended to support and showcase high-growth Northwestern University alumni-founded ventures with viable business models that will allow their businesses to efficiently scale, and that have the potential for significant financial growth.

Please read the complete Official Rules & Guidelines prior to applying. The program reserves the right to disqualify any participant, or submission if Northwestern University determines, in its sole discretion, that there has been a violation of rules and guidelines or if it determines that an entry does not meet all eligibility requirements.

  • Ventures founded more than five years prior to the application open date (February 20, 2024) are ineligible to compete.  
  • Venture must have at least one Northwestern University alum who is a founder or co-founder and substantial equity holder in the business who is actively involved full-time in day-to-day operations, and who graduated from Northwestern prior to December 31, 2023.
    • To be considered a Northwestern alum, you must have completed an undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral degree from Northwestern University. Graduates of Northwestern University certificate programs are not eligible to participate.
  • The Northwestern alumni founders invited to participate as finalists must fully commit to participate in-person on Friday, July 19, 2024, for the Finals Public Showcase at Northwestern’s educational space in San Francisco, CA and must serve as the lead pitch presenters (non-alumni co-founders can participate in the Q&A).
  • Ventures must have less than $2 million USD in annual revenue. 
  • Businesses that have raised more than $ 2.5 million USD in total debt/invested equity capital are ineligible to compete. This amount includes money received through grants, awards, and other funding sources.
  • Northwestern alum investors are not eligible to apply on behalf of a company unless they are identified as a founder and involved full-time in the day-to-day operations. 
  • Investment funds, acquisitions, and consulting services are not deemed "new ventures" and are not eligible to apply/participate.
  • Subsidiary companies are not permitted to apply.
  • Venture must be a U.S. based registered business entity and applicants must provide a completed W-9 form (with Employer Identification Number) at the time of application. Payments cannot be made to foreign business entities. All prize payments are made to companies, not individuals.
  • Companies that have previously won the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place Finals prizes at the annual student VentureCat competition are ineligible to compete in the Alumni VentureCat competition.

Evaluation Criteria and Review Process

The evaluation criteria for all stages of application and competition include:

Problem

  • Significant problem/need identified.
  • Customer groups sized and identified.

Proposition (Value Prop & Business Model)

  • Compelling solution with path to scalability or growth
  • Differentiated customer value
  • Demonstrated understanding of the competitive landscape
  • Business model outlined with realistic revenue sources.

Progress (Progress & Traction)

  • Progress beyond idea stage (e.g., proof of concept, customer research, customer outreach, testing, product development, patent or trademark application, sales)
  • Proposal for additional funding to accelerate progress.

People (Team)

  • Presentation materials and responses to questions demonstrate expertise, commitment, and a thoughtful approach.
  • The founder, key team members, and advisors have the required industry knowledge, skill sets, leadership abilities, and established relationships/networks needed to operate and scale the business successfully.

Application Evaluation Process and Selection of Finalists

Applications will go through 3 rounds of review. The first will be completed by program staff with the support of Northwestern’s Records and Registration office to confirm the alumni status of each applicant.

The second round of review and evaluation will be completed by the leadership team of the Kellogg School of Management’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital (EVC) club. EVC reviewers, in collaboration with VentureCat program staff, will evaluate each application using the stated criteria and complete due diligence on the information provided by applicants.

The final review of applications, and the selection of finalists, will be completed by faculty and staff from units across the University involved in supporting Northwestern’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. These units include the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center, The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Kellogg School of Management, and The Garage.

Prize Information

During the Finals Public Showcase, each finalists will pitch live and in-person to a world-class panel of investors and entrepreneurs, followed by Q&A. Once each finalist has presented, the judging panel will adjourn to deliberate and select the top finalist to be awarded the $100,000 Grand Prize! Winner takes all!
Questions and comments can be directed to, venturecat@northwestern.edu.
Virtual appointments with the Alumni VentureCat Program Manager can be scheduled here.