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FAQs

Before applying, please read the eligibility requirements and the VentureCat Official Rules & Guidelines.

When do applications open and close?

VentureCat applications typically open at the end of March. Check back for exact dates for 2022.

What does the application entail?

  • 1-2 page executive summary
  • 10 slide pitch deck
  • 60 second simple pitch video

Teams must have a U.S. based registered business entity and its IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN) at the time of application and will be required to upload a completed W-9 form for the business when applying. All VentureCat prize payments are made to companies, not individuals. 

What is the time commitment if selected as a semifinalist?

VentureCat semifinalists are required to participate in the Pitch Prep Program and be present to pitch on competition day. The program includes many resources, but does not require many scheduled activities. 

  • Attending a one-hour kickoff meeting
  • Brief call with program lead
  • Two 45-minute pitch coaching sessions
  • Working with a professional graphic designer on deck design needs on your schedule
  • Any prep time needed to practice and prepare your pitch
  • Competition day has activities throughout the entire day for teams that make it to finals

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 University or any of our sponsors.

How much can I win?

All semifinalist teams will receive $1,000 as a selection award. In 2021, the first place track winners received $9,000 and the second place track winners received $6,000 in semifinals. The prizes awarded at finals were grand prize $150,000, second place $50,000 and third place $25,000. Therefore, a team that won their track and the grand prize could win $1,000 for selection, $9,000 + $150,000 = $160,000.

During the Public Showcase event we also awarded an audience favorite vote prize of $2,000.

Do I have to have a registered company?

Yes. Teams must have a U.S. based registered business entity and its IRS Employer Identification Number (EIN) at the time of application and will be required to upload a completed W-9 form for the business when applying. All VentureCat prize payments are made to companies, not individuals.

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 the current academic year of the VentureCat competition and graduated prior to the end of the academic year are eligible to apply.

Can Northwestern alumni participate?

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.

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 entries 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.

Can I apply as a solo founder or are there any limits on number of team members?

Yes, you may apply if you are a solo founder and do not have team members. In your application, we would encourage you to discuss how you will build out your team and what skill sets you would be looking to add first.
There is not a limit to how large a team or group of co-founders can be. Only currently enrolled degree-seeking Northwestern students are allowed to pitch, but your team members may join to support in Q&A.

How are applications and semifinals and finals pitches evaluated?

Below 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?