Skip to main content

Apply

Applications are closed.

The VentureCat 2020 competition was held on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. 

 

Eligibility:

Teams must have created an entity for their business prior to the start of the competition, and must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree seeking Northwestern University student and that student must be a co-founder and current equity holder of the team applying to the competition. Teams can be of any size and ventures can cover any industry in one of the five tracks. Teams that have previously won the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place Grand Prizes at VentureCat Finals are precluded from competing in VentureCat in future years. Teams that previously won prize money at Semifinals or teams that made Finals, but did not win a Grand Prize are eligible to apply.

Semifinalists must be committed to fully participating in the Four Week Semifinalist Prep Program. Please read VentureCat’s Rules and Guidelines before applying.

 

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 opened on March 30, 2020 and closed on April 10, 2020 at 5:00 PM CST for VentureCat 2020.

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?

In 2020, the 1st place track winners will receive $8,000 and the 2nd place track winners will receive $4,000. The remaining competing teams will each receive $1,000. The Grand Prizes, awarded at finals, will be 1st place $150,000, 2nd place $50,000 and 3rd place $25,000. Therefore, a team that won their track and the 1st place Grand Prize could win $8,000 + $150,000 = $158,000.

During the Public Showcase event we also award an Audience Favorite Vote prize of $2,000.

Each Semifinalist team receives an additional $1,000 in non-dilutive prize money for business expenses.

Who is eligible to participate?

Teams must have created an entity for their business prior to the start of the competition, and must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree seeking Northwestern University student and that student must be a co-founder and current equity holder of the team applying to the competition. Teams can be of any size and ventures can cover any industry in one of the five tracks. Teams that have previously won the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place Grand Prizes at VentureCat Finals are precluded from competing in VentureCat in future years. Teams that previously won prize money at Semifinals or teams that made Finals, but did not win a Grand Prize are eligible to apply. The event organizers reserve the right to disqualify any entry that does not meet all the eligibility requirements or that violates any rules or regulations of VentureCat.

Please read VentureCat’s Rules and Guidelines before applying.

Do I have to have a registered company?

Yes. Teams applying to VentureCat need to be a registered company to apply and must have a founders agreement to compete.

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

Students who were in a degree seeking Northwestern University program (full-time or part-time) in academic year 2019-2020 and graduated prior to the end of the academic year are eligible to apply.

When will semifinalists be announced?

Semifinalists were notified via email on April 20, 2020.

Can alumni participate?

Each team must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree seeking Northwestern University student and that student must be a co-founder and current equity holder of the team applying to the competition. Only current Northwestern students are allowed to present at semifinals and finals.

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. Entries must have a legal business entity/registered company and will be required to provide documentation showing the business entity in order to apply and a founders agreement in order to compete.

How will the Pitch Prep Program change with the move to a virtual format?

Semifinalists will sign up for a time with a coach as normal, but your session will be held via Zoom. Semifinalists will still receive graphic design support and all meetings with designers were always remote, so no change to those services.  Semifinalists will still receive an introduction to a Track Advisor that teams may reach out to via phone, email or Zoom.  All communications will move to email, phone and Zoom, but teams will still receive support to improve your ventures and polish your pitches. 

How are applications and Semifinals and Finals pitches evaluated?

This is the rubric for applications and also Semifinals and Finals:

Problem: Did the team clearly articulate the problem that they are solving? Were you convinced that it is a real problem?

Feasibility: Does this team have an interesting solution/product? Do you think this team will be around in 5 years?

Go-To-Market: Does the team have a clear go-to-market strategy? Do you believe in their ability to execute on this plan?

Team: Have the co-founder(s) defined the team that is required to lead the startup to the next milestone? (May not have the entire team in place, but have identified elements that are missing.)

Presentation: Was the presentation logically organized and did it effectively present the business case? Was the presentation compelling? How did they manage the Q&A?

How will teams pitch virtually to judges for Semifinals and Finals?

More details to come on this, but all pitches will be via the Zoom platform. Teams will use slides as normal and voice over their slides. All teams will be directed very specifically on how to pitch via Zoom and everyone will use the same format. 

Judges will interact with teams via Zoom and will hold Q&A after the pitches. 

If my team wins, how will I collect my check?

More details will be shared with Semifinalists as we finalize new processes. But, every Semifinalist team will need to provide a W9 or W8 by May 15, and checks will be mailed to the address on those forms, unless different mailing arrangements must be made. 

Are the requirements for teams still the same for 2020?

Yes, please read all of the above information and please read the Rules & Guidelines. All requirements are still in place for the competition. Applicants must have a legal business entity/registered company and will be required to provide documentation for the registered entity and a founders agreement in order to compete.

Please read VentureCat’s Rules and Guidelines before applying.