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Eligibility Requirements

Please read the complete VentureCat Official Rules & Guidelines, available here. VentureCat reserves the right to disqualify any participant, team 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.

Northwestern Student Involvement

Teams must consist of at least one currently enrolled degree-seeking Northwestern University student. The Northwestern student must be a co-founder and substantial equity holder in the business.

The Northwestern student must act as the Team Lead, which includes completing the application, serving as the main point of contact and presenting during competition. Only current Northwestern students are allowed to present at semifinals and finals. Other team members may attend all activities and assist with Q&A during semifinals and finals.

Business Entity and Company Requirements

If awarded any prize money from VentureCat, the student founder must have a U.S. based registered business entity and provide the program with a completed W-9 form by July 1, 2024, that includes the business's IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN), in order to to receive payments. Payments cannot be made to foreign entities. All VentureCat prize payments are made to companies, not individuals.

Businesses that have raised more than $250,000 in equity capital are ineligible to compete, unless the funding was raised while the current Northwestern student team member was an active student at Northwestern. Government or university grants are excluded, but SAFEs, convertible debt or similar instruments are included.

Businesses that were started more than four years prior to the VentureCat application deadline are ineligible to compete. If you have taken an older entity in a new direction and have used Northwestern resources to advance your business, you may email and petition for eligibility to apply.

All applicants will be required to attest that their team, including all founders and other equity holders, has or will have a signed agreement that outlines the equity ownership of the company (for example, a Founders’ Agreement, LLC Operating Agreement or Shareholders’ Agreement) by the VentureCat competition date, and understand that (i) Northwestern University may ask to see the agreement at its discretion, and (ii) in the event Northwestern University makes such a request, Northwestern University will not review such agreements for substance and will not be responsible for any issues or disputes that may arise in connection with such agreements.

All semifinalists will be required to meet with the VentureCat program lead to discuss the status of any University-owned IP if applicable, and the origins of the team and business.

Previous VentureCat Participation

Teams or companies that have previously won the 1st, 2nd or 3rd place finals prizes at VentureCat finals are ineligible to compete in VentureCat in future years. Teams or companies that previously won prize money at semifinals or teams that made it to finals, but did not win a main prize (1st, 2nd or 3rd), are eligible to apply.

Business Industry & Team

Teams can be of any size and businesses can cover any industry in one of the five competition tracks.

Business Products and Services (B to B)
Consumer Products and Services (B to C)
Energy and Sustainability
Life Sciences and Medical Innovations
Social Impact

Participation in Pitch Prep Program

Semifinalists must be fully committed to participating in the four week Pitch Prep Program prior to competition day, which includes pitch coaching, business advisor mentorship and professional graphic design support.